May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

CDE Reveals and State Board Approves California’s NGSS Summative Assessment Design Plan

Posted: Monday, March 14th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl and Jessica Sawko

After many months of collaboration with NGSS experts, assessment experts, other NGSS-adoption states, CSTA, science teachers, its testing contractor Educational Testing Service (ETS), and other stakeholders, the California Department of Education (CDE) presented its proposed design plan for the California Next Generation Science Standards General Summative Assessment. After approximately two hours of presentation and discussion, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the design plan – allowing the development process to proceed on schedule toward the target of operational assessments in 2018/2019. The full proposal can be accessed from the agenda posted on the State Board of Education website – look for Item 2. A summary of the plan is posted on the CSTA website at

Michelle Center, Director Assessment Development and Administration Division for (CDE) and ETS representatives Dr. Jim Pellegrino and Dr. Kathleen Scalise provided a thorough presentation (click here to view a video of the board presentation, click Item 2) to the State Board. California Science Teachers Association Executive Director, Jessica Sawko, and President, Lisa Hegdahl, represented the CSTA membership at this important meeting and provided public comment in support of the Plan.

Design Summary Table as presented by CDE on March 9, 2016. Table extracted from the item presentation file available at

Design Summary Table as presented by CDE on March 9, 2016. Table extracted from the item presentation file available at

During her presentation, Center pointed out the CA NGSS Assessment Design Goals which are to:

  • Emphasize importance of group-level results to promote improvements to teaching and learning. (The design plan calls for an assessment in three segments, A, B, and C: Segments A & B will contribute to both individual student and group scores; Segment C will contribute only to group scores).
  • Provide models of high quality, CA NGSS-aligned assessment items.
  • Create incentives for schools to provide science instruction in every grade, not just in tested grades. (For the 5th grade assessment, Segments A & B will assess 5th grade performance expectations (PEs), Segment C will assess PEs from K-5. The 8th grade assessment will assess PEs from the 6 – 8 grade span in all three segments. The high school assessment will assess PEs from the high school grade span in all three segments.)
  • Measure the range and depth of NGSS performance expectations by leveraging the state’s distinctly large student population.
  • Minimize testing time and costs. (The design plan calls for a 2 – 2.5 hour assessment)


And the CA NGSS Design Features:

  • Assessment design measures the range and depth of CA NGSS performance expectations (PEs) over a three year cycle.
  • Assessment items, generated by evidence-centered design based task models, will assess the three dimensions of NGSS. (Every item will assess a CA NGSS DCI and at least one of the other two CA NGSS dimensions: one SEP or one crosscutting concept (CCC). Wherever possible, all three dimensions will be assessed within a single item; however, leading NGSS experts agree that this will not always be practical.)
  • Design makes use of a diverse range of item types.
  • Both independent items as well as item sets are used.
  • This is a computer-based, two-stage adaptive assessment.
  • Uses partial matrix sampling of content
  • Group level feedback while ensuring individual student performance is measured fairly and comparably
  • Administered at grades five, eight and grade ten, eleven, or twelve.
  • The assessment is designed to be administered in two hours or less.

On March 10, 2016 Anthony Quan of the Los Angeles County Office of Education hosted a webinar on the NGSS assessment design plan. He invited CSTA’s executive director Jessica Sawko to participate in the webinar. This webinar has been archived and is available online.

A question and answer period following the CDE/ETS presentation of the assessment design plan revealed additional information which included:

  • This assessment plan does not include information about alternative assessments, however the funding for development of those assessments is included in the current contract with ETS.
  • The purpose of the 2017 Pilot Assessment will be to gather information on assessment items, not to generate scores. Grades other than those designated for assessment administration in the plan may also be asked to participate in the pilot.
  • Ultimately this summative assessment plan, while it does meet the requirements for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was developed to meet the needs of California students.
  • Information on how a high school student is progressing in science will be available the year they take the assessment whether it is in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, however, the scores will be ‘banked’ and reported for ESSA purposes during the student’s senior year.

In a letter to the SBE, as well as during public comment, CSTA encouraged the SBE to approve the plan and offered further collaboration with the State Board, CDE, and ETS as the work to develop the new CA-NGSS Summative Assessments progresses and are ultimately implemented.

This is an exciting step forward in the implementation process. CSTA will keep its members up to date on information as it becomes available. It is only with the support of members that CSTA is able to maintain its work in NGSS implementation – we thank our members for their support. If you are not currently a member of CSTA, please consider joining today.

Lisa Hegdahl is president of CSTA and an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School. Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s executive director.

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.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.