May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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

Porter_Hedman_Table1

Click table to view larger image.

Notes:

  • 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.

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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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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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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.