(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).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit www.baysci.org 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 email@example.com. She was invited to contribute to CCS by CSTA member Valerie Joyner.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…