March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

Highlights from NGSS Science Curriculum Framework Focus Group #3

Posted: Monday, February 3rd, 2014

by Jill Grace

I had the pleasure of attending the Science Curriculum Framework Focus group in Orange County on January 31, 2014.  The focus group was hosted by the Orange County Department of Education with 3 other counties, Ventura, Los Angeles, and Riverside, participating via teleconference.  A huge shout out to the 80 dedicated individuals who attended and had to brave rush-hour traffic on a Friday evening!  It was also nice to see several dedicated members of the Instructional Quality Commission present among the four counties listening in on the conversation.  

Since Heather did such a great job explaining the process, I thought I’d highlight a few of the suggestions put forth by both members of the focus group and members of the public.  There was a tremendous amount of information given, so keep in mind that these are just highlights.

One common theme that emerged from the meeting was the need to help teachers with the shift from what students KNOW to what they can DO.  Grade level examples with pedagogy and content, as well as rubrics for measuring success were requested.  It was emphasized that teachers will need help in understanding how engineering, literacy skills, nature of science, and crosscutting concepts can be embedded in the content, not taught as separate “units”.  It was also expressed that there was a need to help teachers identify what specific content and specific skills students would have acquired before “getting to my class” (like an atlas or learning map).  Models for different ways of bundling the standards were requested.  There were numerous suggestions for vignettes, videos of what NGSS looks like in a classroom, as well as an expanded resource website.

NGSS is designed to embed Common Core, so naturally conversation on this topic emerged.   It was requested that the framework help show the integration of math and language arts in an interdisciplinary way, and provide support ideas for cross-curricular training.  Incorporating some common language arts strategies that aren’t as familiar to science teachers, as well as known science education strategies that support literacy and metacognition would be helpful.  The frameworks should emphasize that reading and writing about science is not the same as doing and that hands on experiences can improve the literacy development in students – literacy and writing support science (not vice versa).  It was also stressed that because science is taught conceptually, this should inform collaborations between science teachers and other content teachers.  Further, distinguishing between evidence in science and evidence in ELA will be necessary.  Oh yes, and PLEASE help with finding quality, relevant, and grade-level appropriate readings for use with students in a science class.

Suggestions were made to help inform local education agencies about NGSS and including:

  • providing rationale by the Science Expert Panel for the middle grades learning progressions;
  • help with transitioning and “rolling out” NGSS;
  • help with professional development, information on credentialing, emphasizing equity across the State, and that science should be a full-year program for all students in all schools;
  • clearly defining and providing course protocol for what “life science”, “physical science”, and even “integrated science” should be at the high school levels are necessary as the existing courses do not necessarily hold up the vision or goals of NGSS. In addition, for students moving on beyond these courses, provide guidance for STEM bound students.  

Conversations arose about motivation for both teachers and students.  Suggestions were made to

  • emphasize that science should be hands-on;
  • connect students and teachers with scientists;
  • offer strategies on how to foster collaboration between higher education, informal/outdoor education groups, and non-profits and what this looks like in the classroom.

Other suggestions included requests to leave some flexibility for the creativity of teachers.  This flexibility could allow for differentiation of NGSS to meet the needs of a particular school population, allowing it to be relevant for those students and their community.  Framework writers were encouraged keep suggestions practical as many classrooms in California have large numbers of students, few supplies and resources, and only 45-55 minute periods.

Finally, another important theme emerged with respect to helping teachers understand the generality of the Performance Expectations (PEs).  There seems to be some confusion that because content isn’t explicitly stated in the PE, it won’t be taught.  Teachers will need guidance on how to build content to meet the goal of the PE. For example, although “acid base chemistry” isn’t explicitly stated, students would need to have an understanding of it to meet the high school standard HS-ESS3-6, which involves understanding the impact of human activity on Earth systems such as the ocean, atmosphere, biosphere, and others.  Although DNA isn’t explicitly stated, students would need to have some understanding of it to meet the expectations of the middle school standard MS-LS3, which involves understanding inheritance and variation of traits.  Teachers will need to know what prior knowledge students will have on the topic, as well as what new knowledge students will need to acquire to meet the PEs.

As mentioned previously, much more was shared beyond this, but these were some big themes that stood out to me.  Two more focus groups are being held in February: Sacramento with video conference locations from Humboldt, Shasta, and Siskiyou on February 4, 2014, and Fresno on February 11, 2014.  More info can be found at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/sc/cf/sciencefocgroup2014.asp.  Public comments are also encouraged by February 18, 2014.  You can submit your own comments to scienceframework@cde.ca.gov.

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

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

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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.