Content Standards: Common Core and NGSS – A High School Teacher’s Perspective
Posted: Monday, June 3rd, 2013
by Jeff Orlinsky
In 1997 I attended the open hearings of the California Content Standards in Science. The hearings were about developing the standards that would be used as part of the student assessment system. I would venture a guess that at that time, no one would have anticipated how the panel’s decisions would impact curriculum and instruction in the science classroom. This article is not about the debate or the benefits of standards, it is about the current changes occurring in science education, and how you as a CSTA member and a science classroom teacher, need to be an active participant, not a bystander.
Here is a little history. At first, classroom teachers were largely unaware of the content standards. Districts slowly adopted the standards and they became part of the curriculum objectives but curriculum and instruction in science classrooms did not change until the first tests in science started. Soon, however, it became evident that students’ scores on science tests comprised about 15% of the Academic Performance Index or API. As a result, science classrooms started to modify their curriculum to better match the student assessment.
In 2001, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Federal Law was passed. As with the content standards, curriculum and instruction did not adjust quickly. However, after several years of implementation, there was a drastic change in science instruction and curriculum. The AYP, (Annual Yearly Progress), and Program Improvement components of the NCLB have narrowed our curriculum and severely limited our instructional time when it comes to hands-on laboratory lessons.
Fast forward to 2009, when the National Governor’s Association hired the nonprofit company, Student Achievement Partners, to create an updated set of curriculum and instructional standards for mathematics and English, known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Released in June 2010 and subsequently adopted by California later that year, implementation has already begun and by 2014-15 California will assess student achievement of the new standards. Districts and schools are not waiting for the new assessments, rather, they have already begun to change their curriculum and instruction in ELA and mathematics. Once again, science teachers are waiting, however we already know we will be called upon to incorporate more ELA and math skills into our curriculum. The question science teachers will be asking is, where do these additional standards go in my already crowded curriculum?
Finally, in July 2010, the National Research Council, National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science began the process of writing new science content standards known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The final standards were released in April 2013. The NGSS provide the framework for individual states to adopt a new set of standards that focus on science, technology, engineering, and content in Earth, Biology, Physics and Chemistry. CSTA has been in the forefront on this issue.
A Possible Conflict?
The CCSS may look like math and ELA standards, but classrooms of all disciplines will be impacted. I am not sure how they will affect our current science curriculum and instruction, but I am anticipating a major change. In July of 2013, the State Board of Education will be presented with the option to adopt a new set of science content standards based on the NGSS (the decision will need to be made no later than November 30, 2013). I am concerned that this may present a new conflict in the science classroom, as I expect to see implementation of the NGSS emphasize a hands-on approach, and the implementation of the CCSS for English/Language Arts and Literacy in Science focus on reading. (Editor’s note: the NGSS include reference to areas of overlap with the CCSS.) I feel that these two different types of content standards will be harder for elementary and middle school teachers than for high school teachers. In all cases, we will be forced to add more to our overcrowded curriculum, and forced to decide what content will be cut.
What We Need to Do: An Opportunity for Transformation.
We can no longer wait for new California NGSS-based content standards to be presented to us. We must step out of the classroom and become experts in the CCSS and the NGSS-California Science Standards. We will have to do it ourselves. We have to understand these standards and how they will affect our curriculum and instruction. In 1997, many teachers thought the standards movement was a phase, and that it would not last long. In 2009-10 we thought NCLB would be re-written, and it has not changed. We cannot be passive by-standers; we must take an active role. We also have to bring everyone in the science department along. The more we understand the NGSS and Common Core the easier our transition will be.
Here are recommended steps to help you involve yourself in the process and increase your capacity in CCSS and NGSS:
- Join CSTA – Your membership will gain you access to information and representation. If you are already a member, thank you and be sure to check that your email is up-to-date and that you set-up to receive email from CSTA.
- Read the Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework for K-12 Science Education.
- Visit and review the resources on CSTA’s NGSS webpage.
- Listen to the State Board Meeting on July 10 when the new California Science Standards will be presented (the meetings are broadcast live on-line) or attend in person (in Sacramento).
- Attend webinars and view archives of webinars hosted by NSTA.
- Attend the 2013 California Science Education Conference, which will feature a wealth of programming around Common Core and NGSS/California Science Education Standards.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…