Illinois Common Core Science Standards

Instructor: Kathryn Jorawsky

Kathryn has a B.S. and M.S. Degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas. She has tutored college level math and worked at View High School.

The Illinois State Board of Education recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for all K-12 science education. Read on the learn about these new standards and what the standards mean for Illinois science teachers.

Adoption of Common Core for Science in Illinois

Starting in 2010, Illinois began adopting Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts. However, for science instruction, Illinois standards were initiated a few years later in February of 2014. The current Illinois Learning Standards in Science are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which are K-12 science content standards intended to improve science education across the country. The NGSS design is meant to provide students with in-depth knowledge and understanding of key skills and scientific concepts.

Why NGSS in Illinois?

The Illinois Learning Standards in Science aligned with NGSS are modeled to encourage more hands-on science education in the classroom. This means students will have a deeper understanding of scientific and engineering concepts through instruction and application of real world skills.

Through the use of technology, critical thinking, and analytical skills, Illinois K-12 students will become increasingly 'literate' in science by learning how scientific concepts are integrated and interrelated. Illinois Learning Standards are not a curriculum but are an indicator of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level.

The current Illinois science standards have a lot of similarities with the previous 1997 standards as many of the new standards used the old standards as a jumping off point. However, the biggest difference between the old and new standards is the comprehensiveness, rigor, and interrelation of science concepts.

K-12 Illinois Learning Standards for Science

High quality science education is needed at all levels of education, but scientific knowledge at the earliest grades sets the path to preparing students for college and careers. With the Illinois science standards, students are expected to demonstrate their scientific knowledge in three dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. Each standard was formed by combining these three dimensions, so they are applied at all grade levels.

Scientific and Engineering Practices

This dimension explores scientific inquiry by allowing students to build and model systems of the scientific world. Exploring this dimension will allow students to make connections between STEM fields and the real world.

Crosscutting Concepts

Scientific concepts have several connections and interrelations with each other. Crosscutting concepts teach students similarities and differences, causes and effects, and patterns between domains of science. Applying crosscutting concept knowledge allows students to interrelate knowledge across all scientific fields.

Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI)

These are grouped into four domains:

  • Physical science
  • Life sciences
  • Earth and space sciences
  • Engineering, technology, and applications of science

DCI's are important for several scientific and engineering disciplines and are able to be taught and learned over multiple grades.

Illinois Science Assessments

To assess student understanding of scientific concepts aligned with NGSS, 5th grade, 8th grade, and high school level students are required to take the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) starting in Spring 2016. The ISA is an online assessment that is aligned with Illinois Learning Standards in Science and NGSS. These assessments contain reading passages (scenarios) followed by questions. Questions for this section include open-ended, multiple-choice, multiple-select, and drop down questions. The assessments will also have multiple choice questions not associated with a reading passage scenario.

The 5th and 8th grade tests are based on what students have learned in all four DCI domains.

The high school level exam is based on concepts taught in Biology I as well as some engineering. All high school students enrolled in any of the following courses must take the ISA unless they have full year credit from the previous year:

  • Biology
  • Biology - Advanced Studies
  • AP Biology
  • IB Biology

Illinois Teacher Resources for NGSS offers a large range of teacher resource materials for Illinois instructors working with NGSS. Check out the following courses to help you with your science instruction:

ElementaryMiddle SchoolHigh School
Science for KidsPhysical Science: Middle School
Earth Science: Middle School
Life Science: Middle School
Earth Science: High School
Physical Science: High School
Biology: High School

Science Worksheets are available for all grade levels; students can practice knowledge while instructors check for understanding.

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