September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Achieving Success with Common Core Through Community

Posted: Monday, October 19th, 2015

By Angelica E. Gunderson

As we take on the new school year and think about the shifts we are committing to make towards the Next Generation Science Standards, I have found it beneficial to read about the work that various teachers, schools, and districts are engaging in. I would like to toss my own stone in this ocean of knowledge and hopefully create my own ripples of change by sharing some of the strategies and successes happening at the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

In the last two years, one of our main common goals has been to effectively and efficiently to integrate the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in all of our classrooms. NGSS and CCSS are the responsibility of language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, technology and English Language Development teachers alike. Our district has also taken the approach that the best way to achieve success is through forming and effectively participating in professional learning communities.

Through this work, we have found the connections of NGSS and CCSS to be symbiotic. As a seventh grade science teacher I personally saw the need for integrating language and mathematical literacies into my instruction in order to provide well-rounded and authentic science instruction. As an example, in order to have students create investigations, my instruction had to include guidance on: data collection, how to analyze and interpret data, researching related concepts, analyzing and summarizing texts, as well as communicating findings and citing resources. Through our collaboration, we have agreed that in order to truly engage our students in rich scientific and engineering practices, we need to incorporate the literacy skills presented in the CCSS.

One of the ways we have integrated CCSS and NGSS is by looking at specific strategies and making sure they are being used similarly across different content areas. Take for example close readings. I have personally participated in professional development sessions at my school in which science and language arts teachers discussed how to carry out a close reading for informational texts. At the end, we walked away with resources and routines our students would use in their language arts and science class. So when I went back and implemented it in my science classroom, I felt like I was speaking a familiar language and was not faced by the look of confusion students often have when we ask them to apply a language arts skill in a science class. We did the same for mathematical and computational thinking strategies. Math and science teachers have collaborated on how to conduct a “Launch, Explore, Summarize” lessons. I found it to be very similar to the BSCS 5E Instructional Model because it presents students with a mathematical problem that they address through exploration, collaboration, and explanation of their thinking process. By actively participating in developing professional learning communities at our school, I have found that sharing what we do in our classes for certain topics and skills helps us avoid reinventing the wheel.

The abundance of resources out there to help guide our work has made a significant impact on our progress. The Teaching Channel has been an essential guide used by our district to showcase the implementation of NGSS and CCSS across the country. Being able to watch how real teachers are implementing these new standards in their classrooms has allowed me to get a better picture of what it should look like in my own classroom. That is how I learned more about the “Launch, Explore, Summarize” model for looking at mathematical and computational thinking in my science class.

Two resources worth mentioning are Appendix L and Appendix M in Next Generation Science Standards. For some of our collaboration sessions, these have been valuable keystones for clarifying and directing our work. Appendix L contains a well-organized and detailed outline of when certain math topics are taught. It also spells out the connections between the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and NGSS with a few examples that have helped me personally get ideas on how to improve my instruction. Appendix M presents the connections of NGSS to the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects. Like Appendix L, it contains descriptions that clarify how the CCSS relate to science and engineering practices. We are currently anticipating the publication of the California Science Framework, because it will help refine our work.

At Norwalk -La Mirada Unified, we have taken the awareness phase of NGSS to heart. Our leadership and a good number of teachers across different content areas have truly dedicated themselves to creating a sense of empowerment. For me, this has been a simple and manageable way to effectively implement the Next Generation Science Standards with the Common Core State Standards and I look forward for what else is to come.

Angelica E. Gunderson is a seventh grade science teacher at Los Alisos Middle School and is a member of CSTA. She can be reached at

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.