May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

(In)formal Partnerships: Building District Capacity for Supporting the Convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Vanessa Lujan

This is a critical and historic time for education – nationally and regionally. California districts, schools, and teachers are in the midst of implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and with the recent state adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), these players find themselves at a critical juncture where they must have a clear understanding on how to connect the two initiatives and communicate this connection to their stakeholders that include district leaders, principals, teachers, students, parents, and community. With a framework for the relations and convergences CCSS to NGSS (see Stage, et al., 2013), educators and leaders have a clearer sense of these connections. One of the unique opportunities of the common standards movement is the ability for states to develop a guiding framework. At the same time, one of the unique challenges is the ability for districts to further tailor the implementation.

Many schools and districts call upon Informal Science Institutions’ (ISI) science education expertise (including professional and curriculum developers) to provide support for their educators and students. At this important time, many of these ISIs are well positioned for this role as it relates to the convergence of CCSS and NGSS as they have long histories of working with K-12 school-based science leaders and educators to provide programs and support for teachers, students, schools, and districts (CILS, 2005). In addition, many ISIs have not only taken part in the development and refinement of these standards, but have established programs and materials for students and teachers that are founded upon the very principles from which these standards documents were created.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, a coordinated effort called BaySci is being led by the Lawrence Hall of Science, Exploratorium, and Inverness Research, where Informal Science Institutions, districts, schools, and teachers work to systematically enhance the quantity and quality of science teaching and learning. BaySci is aimed at improving the likelihood that every student in the greater Bay Area will encounter high quality science within a national and state context surrounding the implementation and convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

BaySci is:

  • A network of 8 partner school districts committed to improving elementary science education through the development and support for a district-wide science vision, distributed leadership, strategic and sustainable plans for science, and increasing the access to high-quality science teaching and learning across school districts.
  • A network of 78 individuals or “science champions” (teachers, administrators and other educators willing to champion science in their own settings) outside of BaySci partner districts supported through professional development summer leadership academies and academic year follow-up sessions.
  • A learning community for improving the capacity of ISIs to improve the support they provide to districts, schools, teachers, and students related to the convergence of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Despite the major improvement in the national policy environment supporting high quality science and STEM teaching and learning, science education experts expect that the Next Generation Science Standards will present even more of a challenge for our financially beleaguered school systems. Teachers will need more in depth conceptual knowledge of science and science pedagogy, as well as access to the time, space, and materials required to engage learners in the practices of science and engineering, math and literacy. BaySci provides what we call a “high quality improvement infrastructure” to districts at this critical time. BaySci provides districts with professional development, planning time, technical assistance, access to expertise, and opportunity for collaboration that are otherwise unavailable.



Syntheses of research regarding the improvement of science education in districts suggest several common features feed into a successful model:

  • Districts and schools must have instructional leadership and infrastructure (PD, quality materials and materials management, supportive policies, parent support, etc.) focused on science, and science instruction must be an obvious and explicit priority.
  • Rigorous standards are needed to guide a coherent system of curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher preparation, and professional development. Instructional materials, other classroom experiences and field trips should provide students opportunities to learn science by engaging in the practices of science that approximate what scientists actually do.
  • Teachers need a strong knowledge base of science, science learning and science teaching to help them to apply a range of effective instructional strategies in a variety of contexts.
  • Professional development is needed to help teachers to learn science content and pedagogy, and to provide on-the-job support for implementation and reflection.
  • Student assessment and program evaluation must align to standards and materials, be an integral part of ongoing instruction, and be used iteratively to inform instructional and programmatic decisions.
  • Districts and schools must align policies to support science education. External/community resources should be strategically prioritized to achieve district science goals.

Currently, it is rare to find educational settings where even some of these features exist concurrently. With CCSS and NGSS, BaySci deliberately engineers its work to allow for the development and improvement of multiple parts of the support infrastructure throughout a school district. BaySci districts, leaders, and teachers work towards achieving the new national vision for science education, and we have found that the work of BaySci to-date has been an important source of support and improvement towards the convergence of NGSS and CCSS for participating districts and teachers.

BaySci is also grounded in the expanding body of research that confirms the important role ISIs play in building the capacity of teachers and school systems by providing professional learning experiences focused on strengthening science teaching and learning. Many districts nationwide rely on university, informal education or industry partners to provide professional development as critical leverage to help build and nurture their internal capacity for integrating science with other subjects, and for making science universally accessible, and engaging and important to learners. BaySci believes that ISIs can purposefully and systemically provide the focused expertise and leadership needed to support the work that lies ahead regarding the convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards.

For more information on BaySci or becoming involved, please contact Vanessa Lujan, Ph.D., Program Director at You may also visit for more information on our partners, program, science education-related news, and resources.

Vanessa Lujan is the Project Director at BaySci, at the Lawrence Hall of Science. You can reach her at She was invited to contribute to CCS by CSTA member Valerie Joyner.


Written by Guest Contributor

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:

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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.