September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

From NGSS to California Standards

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

On April 22nd, the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) convened a Science Experts Panel (SEP) consisting of about 20 teachers, teacher educators, scientists, engineers, and leaders in science education to review the Next Generation Science Standards. The Panel was charged to provide recommendations to the SPI on the content and format for the new California science standards as he prepares his recommendation for the new California science standards to be presented to the State Board of Education in July.

From late April to early June, the SEP will meet three times. During these meetings they will to review the fit and appropriateness of the NGSS as the basis for the new California science standards and consider public comments from the public information meetings and online forum. They will also develop guidelines for possible middle school instructional sequences, and provide recommendations to the SPI on the content for the new California science standards and the California Science Framework that will follow.  During the first meeting that already occurred on April 22, the SEP reviewed the Discipline Content, Science and Engineering Practices, and Cross Cutting Concepts in each of the content areas, looking for alignment through the grade levels/content areas, for a logical progression of concepts and practices, and for alignment to the California Common Core Standards. Based on this review, it is clear that Achieve, Inc. responded to the 10,000+ comments received after the second draft by reducing the number of performance expectations by at least a third, integrating the nature of science and science and engineering practices more seamlessly within the performance expectations, and providing stories and guiding questions for each grade level/span and content area that adds continuity to the performance expectations. Based on the results of the CSTA survey conducted after the last review period and considering the changes made for the final version of NGSS based on public comments, I believe that CSTA members are in favor of the NGSS as they now stand.

Accepting the NGSS as the new California science standards means that the Performance Expectations from NGSS will go forward as the standards for California. Once adopted by the State Board of Education, these standards will be used to guide the development of a new Science Framework for California Public Schools (tentatively beginning in 2015), guide the development and adoption of instructional materials for grades K-8, and determine the content of future assessments. The process is not nearly complete – implementation of the new California science standards, along with providing the requisite professional development for teachers are tasks that still must be done. There will be many opportunities for our members to participate at each of these steps along the way. For example, there will be State Board of Education meetings where standards will be presented and the public solicited for comment, opportunities to serve on the instructional materials review teams and/or the writing teams for the new California science framework, and possibly even on the assessment development teams. In addition, there will be many opportunities to provide and or participate in professional development activities at conferences, in districts, and through association meetings. With an eye on the final prize of new, 21st century science standards in schools by 2016-17 there is still a lot to be done. To stay abreast of the developments in this journey, I would encourage you to watch the CSTA Website, where information about all of these opportunities will be listed.

In closing, we would like you to share your comments, questions, and ideas with us through the comment feature of this article. Please feel free to write a few words in the boxes below so that the CSTA Board of Directors can be aware of your ideas as we move forward in this process.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis and is a past-president of CSTA.

One Response

  1. I have my doubts that the implementation of NGSS will be successful.
    The standards are well-written, well-thought-out, and are in the right direction. Teachers are very capable of implementing them. Students are very capable of completing them.
    What is not discussed is what will happen to student failures. This issue never really seems to be addressed, and is what I attribute the lack of success in current CA standards.
    NGSS sets the standards high, as they should, however when high percentages of failures occur, how will the State, districts, and admin react? Will they understand that there will be 5 or so years of students that will not be successful to the new approach in the secondary schools? How will they react when EL students are struggling?
    California has the highest number of science jobs out of all the States, yet we rank 34th (SERI) and 47th (Nations Report Card) in science education out of all States. Its is not by accident, I see the issue directly on how we handle failures.
    Instead of keeping high standards and finding ways to raise student achievement, rather tests are dumbed down to artificially lower failure rates. Instead of raising students to the bar of our expectations, rather there has been moving the expectations to the “level of the student”. The problem with that approach is that there will always be a certain percentage of failures; many students will always give only 70% effort, regardless of how hard or easy the information is given. 70% of high standards learned is always better than 70% of low standards learned. The true separation between successful teachers/students is how they are supported by the State, district and admin when failures present themselves.
    So the NGSS is in the right direction, but we are not addressing the real issue in education… How will failures be addressed?

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.