September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

(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.


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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.