September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Considerations for Equitable NGSS High School Curriculum Implementation

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Jenna Porter & Rich Hedman

Over the next few years, school districts throughout California will need to decide which curriculum course model to adopt for high school science.  Unlike middle school, for which there are two relatively straightforward course models (preferred integrated and alternative discipline specific), high schools will have more than 4 distinct course model options (see Table 1).  Which model would be best for high schools in your district?  To assist you in answering that question, we offer some resources and points to consider, and make a recommendation for providing equitable opportunities for all students to access the new science curriculum.

While the draft California Science Framework seems to show preference for high school course models A and B (by fully describing these models in Chapter 7), and to some extent course model C (described in the Appendix), California Ed Code allows local education agencies to make these curricular decisions. Therefore, other options exist, such as model D, described in Appendix K of NGSS, and model E, a customized model based on the NGSS documents.

Table 1.  Summary of High School Course Model Options


Click table to view larger image.


  • All courses in each model embed Engineering, Technology, and Application of Science standards
  • The sequence of courses in each model is not mandated

In order to reach a consensus recommendation as to the best course model for your school district, we suggest that districts gather interested teachers and administrators, facilitated by knowledgeable local science education organizations (CSTA, California Science Project, K-12 Alliance, etc.) to critically analyze these different course models.  This decision-making group should also carefully consider the various implications, benefits, and restrictions of each. Some important factors to consider in choosing a course model are outlined in NGSS Appendix K.



We feel the most important factor to consider is, “All standards, All students”; one of the explicit goals of NGSS. Each of the course models meets the requirement “All standards.”  However, whether or not any given course model meets the “All students” requirement depends on other district policies, such as the minimum high school graduation requirement for science. If the district has a 2-year science graduation requirement (the minimum mandated by CA ed code), then none of the course models described above would meet the NGSS goal of “All standards, All students.”  Each course model requires a minimum of 3 years of science, while model B requires 4 years of science. Thus, the science course graduation policy limits each of the models in terms of allowing students to opt out (or be tracked out) of third or fourth year courses. This policy misalignment contributes to inequitable opportunities for some students to learn, and perpetuates existing achievement gaps in science for underserved populations. A recently published Policy Brief addresses these issues, and explicitly identifies benefits and limitations for implementing course models A, B, and C (above), as well as highlights the need for consistent curriculum, policy, and practice so that equity in science education can be reached.

To achieve the NGSS goal of “All standards, All students,” we highly recommend that California school districts adopt a 3-year science graduation requirement.  If the NGSS are intended to improve science education and prepare all students for college and career, it cannot be done effectively or equitably if only two years of science are required for high school graduation. The adoption of NGSS has the potential to transform science education. But the effective implementation of NGSS will depend on how well school districts address factors specifically related to providing equitable opportunities for All students to learn science. These must be considered before curriculum decisions for course models can be made. We are hopeful that you become knowledgeable about the implications each of these course models hold for students, and that you actively engage in the development and implementation of equitable course models for your school district.

Rich Hedman is the Director of the Center for Math and Science Education (MASE), CSU Sacramento. Jenna Porter is an Assistant Professor at CSU Sacramento; College of Education: Teaching Credentials.

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:

One Response

  1. Thanks for taking the time to writing this. It is quite the topic of conversation on the Facebook page – California High School Science Teachers.

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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.

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.