September 2016 – Vol. 29 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.

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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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.