Coming Challenges of New P-12 Science Standards
and Grades 5 & 8 Science Tests

As the new P-12 science standards and grade 5 and 8 science tests see the light of day in 2024, the job ahead will require the need for time and teacher collaboration. The shift from the prior and next-gen science standards is timely and challenging for both teachers and students with an emphasis on PERFORMANCE. Also, it appears that reading comprehension will be a significant factor due to the complexity of science literature and its application.

NYSP-12 Science Standards

The new standards are structured around three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and key ideas in four disciplinary areas. Those areas include: life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences; and engineering and technology. The science and engineering encompass critical thinking, communication and other skills. They also reinforce habits scientists and engineers use to develop new knowledge, solve problems, and apply existing knowledge to questions and problems in the real world.

Written as performance expectations, the standards depict what students must do to show proficiency. The performance expectations are organized by grade level from Prek-5th grade and by topic at the middle and high school level. In addition, they build in the requirement that students operate at the intersection of science practices, content, and connections. The most prominent change calls for a shift from memorizing to engagement, knowing how to use existing knowledge and discovering new knowledge, and a shift from direct instruction to learning based on inquiry.

There will be a definite effect on science curriculum because the new science standards are not a curriculum. However, they affect how curriculum materials and lessons are designed with emphasis on performance and understanding of science and engineering practices. The shift requires learning to be more hands-on. Also, the sequence of grade-level standards provides a structure for curriculum development and more opportunity for teachers to work across grades.

New Grades 5 and 8 Science Tests

New science tests administered in 2024 will assess student learning with the new standards which provide for performance-based assessment through embedding required investigations into instruction. Investigations are currently available from NYSED. To assist in assessing performance-based learning, performance level descriptors (PLDs) are available as guidance documents to show the overall continuum of learning of knowledge and skills from the standards. PLDs support differentiating instruction, creating formative assessments and rubrics, targeting performance levels for individual/groups, and tracking growth along the proficiency continuum. However, NYS science tests for grades 5 and 8 will only consist of multiple-choice and constructed-response (i.e., open-ended) questions. Samples of the new testing are available and reflect a strong reading comprehension challenge at both grades.

Next steps in getting started with implementation of the new science standards and assessments require familiarity with the investigations with opportunities for collaboration. Remembering, the new science standards impact P-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Also, there a need for science resources in the way of instructional units, lessons, and literature for curriculum development or modification (don’t throw out the baby with the proverbial bath water). Finally, an infusion of science-based materials across all subjects including math is absolutely essential. Our teachers and students are certainly ready for the challenge as they have demonstrated in the past.

Dr. Bruce H. Crowder is a senior researcher for Educational Vistas, Inc. His work is primarily focused on creating pathways for deeper learning for all students through student performance and a dynamic curriculum replete with strategic teaching. Dr. Crowder may be reached at