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:
- Adoption of new standards
- Write a curriculum framework for California based on the new standards
- Curriculum development, professional development, and implementation
- 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 (email@example.com) 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.
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…