May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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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.