May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Facts & Myths Regarding Next Generation Science Standards in California

Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013

by Laura Henriques 

As I take over my new post as CSTA President, I realize there is still lots of misinformation about the Next Generation Science Standards. In this issue, I hope to clarify some misunderstandings and help you better understand California’s timeline. As teachers we often start instruction with a pre-assessment, so I figured I would do the same here.

Fact or Myth? California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in April 2013.

Fact or Myth? California educators have been involved in reviewing the standards and providing feedback to the author team, the Department of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Fact or Myth? If adopted, NGSS for California represents the curriculum for science instruction in California.

Fact or Myth? If adopted, you will need to implement NGSS for the 2013-2014 school year.

Fact or Myth? California will need to write a Science Curriculum Framework based on NGSS for California (assuming the standards are adopted).

Fact or Myth? The grade 6-8 standards represent three courses in earth, life and physical sciences, sort of like what we have now.

Fact or Myth?  The grade 9-12 standards represent the courses that will be offered in high schools.

How well did you do? Read on to find out.

1. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were adopted in April 2013: MYTH

Don’t feel bad if you missed this one, lots of people believe that California has already adopted NGSS. Achieve, the group that spearheaded the writing of NGSS, considered feedback from thousands of reviewers across the United States and incorporated changes into the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards, released on April 9, 2013. California is one of the Lead States in the NGSS process, which means that as a state we also provided feedback. California has not yet adopted NGSS.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) Tom Torlakson released his recommended science standards to be presented to the State Board of Education (SBE) at their July 10, 2013 meeting. His recommendation is that the SBE approve his recommended “Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, K-12”. These are essentially the NGSS that were released by Achieve in April, with a few modifications made by California to the clarifying statements and an assignment of the middle school standards to specific grades. The Board must make a decision related to the adoption of these new standards before or during their November 6-7, 2013 meeting. Only then will be know where or not California adopts NGSS.  You can watch all SBE meetings online via live webcast.

2. California educators have been involved in reviewing the standards and providing feedback to the author team, the Department of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction: FACT

California educators and other state stakeholders provided feedback through a variety of mechanisms. Hundreds of educators participated in focus groups and group review sessions around the state, with hundreds of us providing feedback directly to Achieve during the public review process for the first and second drafts of the standards. Members of the CSTA leadership and county office personnel hosted numerous meetings to aid that process. After the final version of the standards was released in April, the State Board of Education hosted three town-hall meetings (one was a webcast) to solicit input from interested parties. CSTA also conducted a survey of its membership. This information has been shared with the Department of Education. The superintendent’s Science Expert Panel, made up of 27 California educator, scientist, and non-educator experts, carefully reviewed the standards and their appropriateness for California students.

3. If adopted, NGSS represents the curriculum for science instruction in California: MYTH

This is one of the biggest misconceptions folks have about NGSS. The standards, or performance expectations, indicate what kids are able to do. They tell us nothing about how we teach or plan instruction to help students achieve that level of performance. NGSS authors go to great pains to point out that the document is not curriculum, but as educators we all want to read the document and infer what instruction looks like. The Science Framework and curriculum come next.

4. If adopted, you will need to implement NGSS for the 2013-2014 school year: MYTH

The absolute earliest date that NGSS might be adopted is July 2013. However, it is probably more realistic to assume that the State Board of Education won’t decide anything until September or November. The adoption of new standards sets in motion the next steps (see #5). Implementation in classrooms will not be expected until 2014-2015 at the very earliest.

5. California will need to write a Science Curriculum Framework based on NGSS (assuming the standards are adopted): FACT

Just as many people believe that NGSS has already been adopted, some people also believe that we will simply use the K-12 Framework for Science Education that served as the basis for NGSS. Not true! California will need to write a curriculum framework that will help teachers implement the new standards adopted by the board in their own classrooms. While the dates for framework development, implementation and assessment are not final (legislation is still pending), the order in which events transpire will transpire is:

  1. Adoption of new standards
  2. Write a curriculum framework for California based on the new standards
  3. Curriculum development, professional development, and implementation
  4. State assessments based on new standards

The timeline has too many variables to give actual dates for these tasks and legislation regarding assessment, curriculum framework, and professional development is currently working its way through the legislature. The timeline developed by CDE offers general dates for implementation. The CSTA NGSS website provides updated information as well.

6. The grade 6-8 standards represent three courses in earth, life and physical sciences, sort of like what we have now: MYTH

The grade 6-8 standards in NGSS represent the combined content and skills to be mastered by the end of middle school. As released by Achieve, the 6-8th grade standards were not assigned to particular grade levels. In his recommendation, SPI Torlakson offered distinct Grade 6, 7, and 8 standards (extrapolated from the combined Grade 6-8 performance expectations). His recommendation takes into account developmental appropriateness, alignment with math Common Core and alignment with grades K-5 science standards which precede.

7. The grade 9-12 standards represent the courses that will be offered in high schools: MYTH

This has been a major source of confusion and concern for high school teachers. The standards in NGSS represent what all students should know when they leave high school. By the end of that time, kids should have had the opportunity to master the standards outlined in NGSS. If you teach a high school chemistry class or physics class you will likely teach more than what is included in the Physical Science Standards of NGSS. That’s okay and to be expected. NGSS is not curriculum; in other words, teachers should not look at NGSS and assume that the list is all-inclusive for what a course might include, especially for high school physics or chemistry.

California is a K-8 adoption state so the SPI needed to make recommendations for where the grade 6-8 standards will be taught. This is not the case for high school. As a result, the curriculum framework writers and local districts will need to determine how the grade 9-12 standards get addressed. What is important to remember is that NGSS represents the science all students should learn.

Please stay abreast of the process. Continue to visit the CDE’s NGSS website or the CSTA NGSS website. If you are in the Sacramento area and feel so inclined, attend the State Board of Education meeting on July 10-11. If you are not in the area you are invited to submit written comments via email (sbe@cde.ca.gov) to the SBE with the item number clearly marked in the subject line. In order to ensure that comments are received by board members in advance of the meeting, materials must be received by 12:00 p.m. on the Monday July 8.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and a past-president of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

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.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.