Vision and Executive Summary

What is the Vision for K-12 Science and Engineering Education in Nevada?

The Nevada Academic Content Standards for Science (NVACSS) are supported by A Framework for K-12 Science Education and based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A Framework describes the background science education research spanning the last 20 years and establishes a conceptual framework for K-12 science and engineering standards and instruction reform as:

“The framework is designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.”1

This vision applies to ALL students, not just those who pursue careers in science, engineering, or technology or those who continue on to higher education. The conceptual framework establishes a vision of support for all students to become well-rounded, scientifically literate citizens. Other significant aspects of the vision are elaborated upon as Conceptual Shifts in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These shifts indicate what is new or novel within the science education standards and what changes should be expected throughout grades K-12. The conceptual shifts in the Nevada Academic Content Standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards, are2:


  1. K-12 Science Education Should Reflect the Interconnected Nature of Science as it is Practiced and Experienced in the Real World;
  2. The Next Generation Science Standards are student performance expectations – NOT curriculum;
  3. The Science Concepts in the NGSS Build Coherently from K–12;
  4. The NGSS Focus on Deeper Understanding of Content as well as Application of Content;
  5. Science and Engineering are Integrated in the NGSS, from K–12;
  6. The NGSS are designed to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship; and,
  7. The NGSS and Common Core State Standards (English Language Arts and Mathematics) are Aligned.

Within the vision that these new standards are for all students, explicitly connected to the Nevada Academic Content Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts (NVACSM and NVACS-ELA), and designed to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship, the NVACSS will provide the pathway for all students to have equitable access to a world class science education needed for the next generation.


Why is this Vision for K-12 Science and Engineering Education in Nevada Important?

In Cracking the Code on STEM: A People Strategy for Nevada’s Economy, the authors describe a P-12 education system in crisis (3) due to several factors. The report additionally describes the many challenges facing Nevada, including Nevada’s fast-growing need for a STEM-skilled workforce. To address some of these challenges the report suggests education reform, and notes the first step is with standards reform. The new NVACSS, in both vision and structure, seek to provide several remedies to the lack of proficiency in science and engineering understanding, relevance for all learners, and context for English Language Learners. The NVACSS, by design, meaningfully integrate practices of science and engineering with core ideas and major themes used to describe these diverse fields in coherent K-12 performance expectations. The NVACSS also connect with the overarching goals of the Nevada Computer and Technology Standards. The critical interconnectedness of the NVACSS (science and engineering standards) with the mathematics, ELA, and computer and technology standards affords a platform to directly support and guide STEM education for the next generation. The revised NVACSS empower our students to actively engage as critical consumers and producers of scientific and engineering information and concepts related to their experiences.

Why the revision of the NVACSS?

The Nevada Academic Content Standards for Science, like all content standards, operate on a ten-year cycle of revision. Standards are fully reviewed and revised in the first year of the adoption cycle and reviewed at years 3 and 7. These “check-in” opportunities, at years 3 and 7, are used to determine the need for adjustments of the standards based on state level monitoring of Local School Boards of Education’s plans to implement the standards. As new education research is developed to inform future needs the typical process is to bring together education experts from around the state to collaborate and develop the next set of standards. The previous NVACSS were developed in 2005 and were chiefly based on the 1996 National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996). Since the development of the 2005 NVACSS much has changed in the many fields of science and engineering and significant gains in research fields around the processes and practices of science teaching. Thus, in order to prepare the next generation of Nevada’s citizens, new standards were in order.

“Currently, K-12 science education in the United States fails to achieve these outcomes, in part because it is not organized systematically across multiple years of school, emphasizes discrete facts with a focus on breadth over depth, and does not provide students with engaging opportunities to experience how science is actually done. The framework is designed to directly address and overcome these weaknesses.”(1)

The process to develop, revise, or adopt new science standards was initiated in 2013 when the Nevada Standards Council voted unanimously to revise the NVACSS. During this time period many states were collaborating on the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The development of the NGSS was an intensely collaborative process organized by Achieve (a non-profit education organization) and lead chiefly by cohorts of K-12 educators, science and engineering researchers, science and engineering education researchers from across the nation. The NGSS were based on science education research, organized in A Framework for K-12 Science Education1, the guidance and feedback from 26 lead state partners, and three rounds of public feedback and revision cycles. During this time in Nevada several large groups of science educators gathered to provide collective feedback regarding the structure, goals, and targets of the NGSS.

In 2014, after several vetting processes, collective feedback from Nevada educators across the state, and overwhelming stakeholder support, the Nevada State Board of Education voted on the revised Nevada Academic Content Standards for Science (NVACSS) based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This was a significant commitment to shift K-12 science and STEM education in Nevada to ensure that all students are college and career ready upon graduation.

What is the Implementation Vision for K-12 Science and Engineering Education in Nevada?

“While the state’s [Nevada’s] decision to adopt the CCSS and the NGSS represent important first steps toward greater STEM proficiency, these standards must now be implemented across all districts in order to ensure that every school makes student success in STEM subjects a priority.”(3)

To support stakeholder organizations across Nevada in the implementation of the revised NVACSS a network of stakeholders was established. The network, comprised of leaders from stakeholder organizations, developed and described eight essential initiatives: Communication, Capacity and Network, Professional Learning, Instructional Practices and Instructional Shifts, Instructional Materials and Curriculum, Assessment System, Data Collection, and Policy. These initiatives seek to focus implementation efforts and support for STEM and science education across the state. The achievement of each initiative is described through a continuum of Awareness → Implementation → Continuation. Each initiative is defined with an overview, vision, goals, action, and continuum of implementation in section "NVACSS Implementation Initiatives".

  1. (2011). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13165/a-framework-for-k-12-science-education-practices-crosscutting-concepts
  2. NGSS Lead States. (2013). APPENDIX A - Conceptual Shifts in the Next Generation Science Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  3. Lee, J. A., Muro, M., Rothwell, J., Andes, S., Kulkarni, S. (2014). Cracking the Code on Stem: A People Strategy for Nevada's Economy. 1-62.