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Home » Student Success » Resources by Subject Area » Science » Learning Standards » Washington State Science and Learning Standards

Washington State Science and Learning Standards


The Washington State Science and Learning Standards (WSSLS), previously known as the Next Generation Science Standards-NGSS, are a new set of standards that provide consistent science education through all grades, with an emphasis on engineering and technology. Superintendent Randy Dorn formally adopted the NGSS on October 1, 2013, and announced the adoption with Governor Jay Inslee on October 4. Washington is the eighth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards. The NGSS are now called Washington State Science Learning Standards.

The WSSLS describe -- at each grade from kindergarten through fifth grade, at middle school and at high school -- what each student should know in the four domains of science: physical science; life science; earth and space science; and engineering, technology and science application.

The new standards will help students become literate in science. They will have the skills and knowledge to tackle issues like water and energy conservation. The WSSLS are aligned to the Washington State Mathematics and English Language Arts Learning Standards (Common Core State Standards). When students are learning about science, they are also enhancing their skills in reading, writing and math.

Governor Inslee: "These new standards will help educators cultivate students' natural curiosity, push their creative boundaries and get kids excited about science and technology. This is a tremendous step forward for Washington's students."

2013 National Teacher of the Year Jeff Charbonneau: "Teachers, parents and the general public should not find these new standards threatening. They are not a radical change, but rather are a carefully judged update and revision of what Washington students have been learning for years. Washington state has had standards-based science education for more than a decade." (Seattle Times, Oct. 7, 2013).

The WSSLS are now available. Twenty-six states and their broad-based teams worked together with a 41-member writing team and partners throughout the country to develop the standards.

View the Washington State Science and Learning Standards

The development of the Next Generation Science Standards began in 2010. The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science collaborated on the Framework for K-12 Science Standards. Published in July 2011, the framework is divided into three parts:

  1. Practices: Describe how scientists build theories and models about the way our world, and systems within it, works.
  2. Crosscutting concepts: Concepts that apply to all four science domains.
  3. Disciplinary core ideas: the foundational ideas needed for every student to be able to begin his or her own inquiries and practices.

Using the framework, Achieve Inc. managed the process of creating the new standards. A total of 26 lead states, including Washington, collaborated on the writing. Drafts were sent out for public comments on two occasions. The final version of the standards was released April 9, 2013.

According to Achieve's press release announcing the final version, "The creation of the NGSS was entirely state-driven, with no federal funds or incentives to create or adopt the standards. The process was primarily funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a leading philanthropy dedicated to improving science education in the U.S."

The adoption process was comprised of four steps:

  1. A comparison of the new standards against the existing ones;
  2. A bias and sensitivity review, to ensure that the new standards aren't culturally biased;
  3. Review and input from the public and a variety of stakeholders, such as the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Commission and the State Board of Education; and
  4. Time to let the state legislature understand the change in standards.

The final Next Generation Science Standards are available by Topics and by Disciplinary Core Ideas. As a Lead State Partner, Washington agreed to give serious consideration to adopting the Next Generation Science Standards. OSPI provided an update to the House Education Committee on the NGSS including future next steps and potential implications for assessment. The work session was recorded by TVW. In addition, Washington completed a Comparison Analysis between the NGSS and the WA 2009 Content Learning Standards and a Bias and Sensitivity Process. A draft transition and implementation plan was developed by OSPI in collaboration with science educators and partners. This plan will continue to be refined as curriculum, instruction and assessment resources become available. Year 0 of the draft plan is an awareness affording time to fully understand the new standards.

Related Materials:

Washington will begin its transition to the NGSS using a four year process that began with the NGSS adoption in October 2013. Elementary transition plans and Middle School and High School DRAFT transition plans are now available.

Washington Lead
Ellen K. Ebert Ph.D.

Director of Learning and Teaching Science at OSPI

National Web Site

American Association for the Advancement of Science