May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

High School Questions About NGSS – A Statewide Conversation

Posted: Monday, June 20th, 2016

by Christie Pearce and Marian Murphy-Shaw

The California Science Teacher’s Association is made up of a wide range of individuals and institutions passionate about promoting and supporting science teachers and high quality resources for science education at all levels. It is well known that TK-12 teachers are CSTA members, you may also know that local science centers are members, along with private and Community College, CSU and UC faculty, but did you know that many of your local County Offices of Education have staff who are members?

In this collaboratively composed article, two county office of education colleagues, from opposite ends of the state have combined forces to connect California science teachers with one more resource; your local county office, or county department, of education. While CSTA has 4 identified regions in CA, the 58 counties are part of an 11-region public education system. At these offices your county STEM or Science Coordinators, Educational Services Directors, Curriculum Specialists, Grant Directors and more often serve in multiple roles, many working directly with teachers, TOSA’s, coaches, principals and science education partnerships. Across the 11 regions these “county folks” collaborate, share resources and work directly on projects such as the CA NGSS Rollouts with statewide entities such as the California Department of Education, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee (CISC), CA Science Project, and West Ed’s K-12 Alliance. (A listing of key science contacts at each of these entities has been compiled by Anthony Quan at the Los Angeles County Office of Education and is available here.)

Questions about what high schools can and should be doing with NGSS seem to be ever increasing- both in number and complexity. CSTA asked if we could compile what the counties are hearing, both the questions and the answers. We started by connecting with our colleagues across the state and asking what questions and concerns they hear most often. If it makes our high school teachers feel any better, you are certainly not alone in wondering about NGSS. Below we have compiled questions and responses. We have tried to replicate the best information we have on hand as of this writing, but also acknowledge that the most important thing to remember is that all of this is still a work in progress. The UC has not finished updating “a-g,” CA science credentialing is being revised, NGSS “content” in 9-12 will look different over time, but that is not going happen in all CA high schools for several years at least.

County offices have a network of resources and can point to the authority when we do not have the answer ourselves as we have done below. We also encourage the use of the free Digital Chalkboard CA NGSS Rollout materials, especially the High School and Administrator sessions, for use as local professional learning about NGSS.

NGSS and UC a-g

Question: Will the UC’s be updating their “d” criteria to meet the new NGSS models?

Answer: High school advising and teaching staff who have experience with, and contacts for, submission of “a-g” courses are the most reliable source for local answers to these questions. UCOP has indicated they will not have the “a-g” process updated fully for NGSS prior to 2017-18.

The UC also offers help online: http://www.ucop.edu/agguide/a-g-requirements/d-lab-science/index.html. In an interview with Addison Peterson at UC, Addison.Peterson@ucop.edu, we learned that UC is encouraging high schools to submit courses aligned to NGSS and encourages use of the “d” webpage above to meet the most essential criteria of “providing fundamental knowledge in Biology, Chemistry, Physics.” He also noted that as of spring 2016 a sample “d” Earth Science course has been added to the a-g searchable courses. He also wanted to remind high schools that UC would much rather answer questions and work with high schools as courses are being prepared, before they are submitted rather than after, to help make the process more successful. Use the UC a-g Course Management Portal to find search for other recently approved NGSS aligned courses.

Over the last two years UC has been working to align to NGSS. In spring 2015 the academic senate was working on the following, “…a faculty work group revised the area “d” course criteria to reference the NGSS standards, and some are now urging BOARS (Board of Admissions & Relations with Schools) to revise the area “d” subject requirement itself to align with the NGSS. A central question is whether area “d” will continue to identify the three core laboratory science disciplines as Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, or change to reflect the four core NGSS categories—Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science—and broaden the scope beyond only “laboratory sciences.”

Remember this work is still underway – high schools can work directly with UCOP and determine the pace at which they will resubmit courses. There is no deadline at this time as the “new” NGSS courses are still being developed. Local district timelines for course revisions vary. Use the UC site to review their annual timeline.

Many high schools are maintaining the same “content” of an approved course but developing lessons, labs, etc. in small sections to shift instruction to NGSS 3-Dimensional learning, especially incorporating the Science and Engineering Practices. This will take time and ongoing professional learning especially in smaller schools or those not supported by an MSP, Science Project, or other similar projects. Keep in mind that your communities need time to learn about NGSS too and how it will serve their children.

Resources for 3 Dimensional Science

Question: Is there a place that teachers can get a list of natural phenomena for specific content areas?

Answer: Phenomena for NGSSwww.ngssphenomena.com is a curated collection of phenomena for the NGSS, along with help for how to use phenomena in 3 Dimensional teaching and learning. A new resource now being developed by the San Diego COE called #ProjectPhenomena is also available (www.sciencephenomena.com).

Question: Are there additional resources beyond the framework that show how Crosscutting Concepts (CCC) connect to lessons/units?

Answer: The NGSS Rollout Phase 2 Crosscutting Concepts session is a great resource and is free on Digital Chalkboard. It makes use of Crosscut Weebly with teacher-developed ideas http://crosscutsymbols.weebly.com/. Project-based Learning resources are also where you can see big overarching lesson ideas. Edutopia and the Buck Institute are a few.

Question: Where can we find more engineering activities/projects that connect directly to NGSS?

Answer: There is a lot out there. Directly connected to NGSS – meaning someone has had time to do that – not so much yet, but increasing. Keep in mind NGSS is newer to other states than it is to us here in CA. Engineering is Elementary, as an example, though for younger grades, models the use of the engineering design process embedded in science class. The key with engineering is that that it becomes part of the K-12 science curriculum, not stand alone events, electives or challenges. This too takes time and requires weaving in the engineering Practices (SEP) and the engineering Core Ideas (DCI) as part of the units you teach and develop. Staying in touch with CSTA, CA Classroom Science and other connections with colleagues is how you find more.

Question: Is there a place that teachers can get lesson and unit ideas or models aligned to NGSS?

Answer: Lots of places to look – but be a critical consumer – remember we are ALL novices at NGSS still so what has a label may not be a final product, but rather a step in the ongoing learning we are all doing!

Assessment

Questions: Are there assessment questions/ performance tasks, etc.? When will we be assessed on NGSS?

Answers:

  • Working with other teachers is always a good practice when it comes to assessment – especially if your school or district is learning what NGSS can “look” like. CDE will be posting more of the work from the CA MSP Grants on Digital Chalkboard. The PALS website contains science performance tasks – http://pals.sri.com/
  • The State Board of Education has moved ahead with a newly designed science assessment. It is being carefully developed with solid research base and public oversight thanks to CSTA.
  • Writing is currently underway, a pilot is expected in the spring of 2017 with an operational test by spring 2019.
  • To keep up to date: CDE FAQ: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/sciencefaq.asp#accordionfaq
  • The NGSS Rollout Phase 3 feature a session on Assessment.
  • Your county offices are part of the CISC (Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee) community. This committee disperses updates about frameworks, assessments and other statewide work to every county.
  • You also have CSTA as your state teachers association monthly publication CA Classroom Science. Members also get critical updates by email.

Credentialing

Question: What are the credentialing implications of NGSS for currently assigned teachers?

Answer: In CA there are multiple factors that weigh into a teacher’s credentialing; from the year credentialed to the funding formula used at the district of employment. For this reason the most accurate answer will always be based upon an individual’s assignment.

The CSTA NGSS Credentialing webpage has the most currently available general information visible for CA teachers. This provides a good place to start looking for answers.

Question: What are the implications for credentials in pipeline for Earth or Physical sciences?

Answer: Getting up to date numbers from the many teacher preparation programs in CA would be necessary before responding to this question. High school districts should start now looking at their longer term plans for course sequences, staffing, and recruitment. These processes take multiple years and require all stakeholders to be part of the planning.

Course Models

Questions: What are the benefits of choosing the 3-year versus 4-year models? Isn’t the 4-year model similar to what we are already doing now? If Ed Code only requires 2 years of science to graduate, why do we need to offer 3 or 4 years? There’s no legal reason to require 3 or 4 years, correct?

Answer: The contrast in these questions speaks volumes. The teachers accustomed to having a 4-year program are wondering what would change, and those who still provide the “minimum” 2-years wonder why 3-4 years would be expected.

Consider attending the August events about High School 3 Course Model:

  • San Joaquin COE: August 15
  • Alameda COE: August 16
  • Southern California events are anticipated later in the fall

Equity is what it comes down to. Students get varying experience with science depending on where they go to school. The NGSS set Performance Expectations based on a comprehensive science program that provides each student with sufficient science to be career, college, and citizen-ready. The NGSS were not designed to “fit” Ed Code, but to provide equitable learning. Two years appears to be insufficient time in which to accomplish that.

The CA Ed Code sets a minimum – a basement if you will – to build a high school program upon that meets the requirements for a CA diploma.

California Education Code (EC) 51225.3 has specified a minimum set of courses to meet state requirements to graduate from high school and receive a diploma. The governing boards of local education agencies (LEAs) have the authority to supplement the state minimum requirements at the local level. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/hs/hsgrmin.asp.

Question: When should teachers re-write their course descriptions and sequences?

Answer: A good starting place for transition to NGSS courses is to look at the new DRAFT – available starting June 28 at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/sc/cf/ (until fall 2016) CA Science Framework chapters about the course models. While not yet adopted by the CA SBE the draft gives high schools an idea of how NGSS may play out in course sequences. There is no deadline for this, CDE recognizes that transition to NGSS is a process, not an on/off switch.

LCAP

Question: What resources are available to help teachers brainstorm the resources and support that will be most helpful in implementation so that they can petition the school and district to include these in the LCAP language?

Answer: This page has a list of tools for LCAP work http://www.cslnet.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy/local-control-accountability-plan/

The Model LCAP Content has text you can use to come up with your own focus statements: http://www.cslnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Model-LCAP-Content1.pdf.

CSTA has also published a few articles that may be of help:

Hopefully these links, updates and ideas help in the work toward NGSS implementation. Many thanks go to the many individuals from CA county office who contributed resources and suggestions they make use of locally, and have now shared here.

Finally, remember we all need to give ourselves time to be novices again as we learn together and share our experiences doing this work. The County Offices are one of the many partners CA science teachers have to collaborate with, and now you have links to many more.

As you, and your colleagues, find more sources that are of a help to you please share them at some of the CSTA CA Science Teacher Facebook pages:

Christie Pearce is the Science Coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education. Marian Murphy-Shaw is the Educational Services Director, Siskiyou County Office of Education, and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director. Both are members of CSTA.

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.

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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.