November/December 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 2

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Update

Posted: Friday, June 1st, 2012

The first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was released for review on Friday, May 14th. The review period for this draft closed at the end of the day on June 1st. If you did not have an opportunity to review the standards during this first round, CSTA strongly encourages you to participate in the second round of public reviews, anticipated for late fall of this year. Information about the draft standards can be found at  A copy of the May draft of the standards is available for download from the CSTA website. If your time is limited, you might consider reviewing only a portion of the standards in your area of expertise. What ever route you choose, your comments are important to the continued development of the standards in a form and structure that will guide science instruction for years to come.

Throughout the review period, CSTA members and staff have presented, attended, and supported informational and group review meetings throughout the State. We have listed the time and location of many of these meetings on the CSTA website. If you did participate, we would love to have your general comments in the response section at the bottom of this article. In addition, many of the CSTA members and workshop facilitators will share their recollections of the review process and the NGSS as a way for CSTA to prepare for future reviews. If you did not have a chance to participate in a review, please watch CCS for information about the second public review period in the fall.

Once we have a better sense of your feelings about the NGSS the 2012 Conference Planning Committee will assemble targeted workshops and information sessions for the San Jose California Science Education Conference to be held October 19-21, 2012.

CSTA has not yet taken a formal position in support or against the NGSS or the Conceptual Framework. What we do support are the philosophies and practices included in the NGSS.  The concepts of depth vs. breadth, problem solving and critical thinking, and the scientific practices associated with the NGSS represent a significant change in the current science education landscape and one that CSTA has advocated for many years.  CSTA does support your opportunity to participate in this critical review process and encourages you to be an active participant in this process. As you have more opportunities to participate in in-service trainings, review sessions, and implementation discussions, please feel free (and encouraged) to share your thoughts and ideas with your Board members.  As we move through the summer and the fall, CCS will have additional articles and updates about the NGSS. Each of these articles will include a comment section where you can share your thoughts with the Board and your fellow science teachers.

CSTA would like your feedback. We are hosting an online discussion forum where CSTA members can post their comments, feedback, and interact with one another. This forum is available for CSTA members only and you must log-in to the CSTA website in order to participate. CSTA will use your discussions and posts to glean information about our members thoughts and opinions on the NGSS. Please click here to log-in. After you log-in, you will see a link on the upper left for “NGSS on-line forum (members only)”.

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.

One Response

  1. Many science educators are putting high hopes on the Next Generation Science Standards and are rooting hard for them to succeed. We want a chance to get our students doing more and memorizing less and we look forward to helping our students to see the crosscutting concepts that connect the sciences and connect science with other disciplines.

    But this does not mean that we should be uncritical during the opportunities we have to review. Giving tough, focused, and constructive input is the best way to ensure that our students get the standards that they deserve. As I look at the first draft of the standards I see much room for improvement and have many questions. Some suggestions for the writers and some places for teachers to look deeply:

    Language- In a response to my last post, Scott Hays asked why the crosscutting concepts had to be presented in such kid unfriendly language. Remember that in many schools teachers are required to post standards on the board and expected to refer to them directly several times each lesson. In looking over the standards, I agree and think the language used is unfriendly not to just kids, but to everyone. As it says in the AAAs’s Project 2061 Science For All Americans, “Understanding rather than vocabulary should be the main purpose of science teaching.” The writers of the NGSS seem to have trapped themselves in some tortured patterns of writing instead of writing for clarity and simplicity. This mostly seems to stem from the attempt to force a scientific practice and a cross cutting concept or two into every sentence. Here is an example from first grade:

    “Obtain information and communicate that there are tools that allow people to see more objects in the sky and in greater detail. (Clarification statement: Information can be obtained using telescopes, binoculars, or reliable media. For example, as a result of these tools, we can see more stars and study the Moon in greater detail)

    And at the other end, from high school:

    Construct an explanation of how photovoltaic materials work using the particle model of light, and describe their application in everyday devices. (Clarification statement: Everyday devices include solar cells and barcodes.) (Assessment Boundary: Qualitative descriptors only)

    It’s pretty much all in this gibberish committee speak style. I appreciate that the writers are trying hard to show that what we know should not be separated from how we know it. But we don’t have to cram practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas into a single sentence at the expense of clarity.

    An attempt to simplify:

    For the first grade astronomy standard;

    People use tools like telescopes and binoculars to see things in the sky like the stars, planets, and the Moon. Students should do research to learn about them and communicate what they learn.

    For the high school physics standard:

    The particle model of light helps explain how everyday photovoltaic materials like solar cells and barcodes work. Students should be able to make qualitative explanations about how they work based on scientific models of the nature of light

    It might be easier to slightly decouple the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Maybe for each standard set (I’m thinking of them as units) state the science concepts, list the practices that best fit that unit with an explanation of how they can be applied, and highlight the crosscutting concepts that are most evident in that unit. This seems easier than trying to fit it all into each convoluted sentence,

    All Students- These standards are written to be expectations for all students. “All Standards, All Students” is the heading of the chapter on equity. Severely cognitively challenged and emotionally disturbed, just got to this country with no formal schooling where they came from, growing up in extreme poverty with constant dislocation, growing up in conditions of abuse and neglect, or went a low performing elementary school where science wasn’t taught because it isn’t tested. All Students.

    So from one point of view, standards are supposed to be aspirations, “Aim high because you only hit what you aim for” and all that. Which I have no problem with. Its good to set high expectations and try to achieve them as long as they are anchored in reality. But we teachers have been living with standards enough to know that standards, in the hands of politicians and the media, turn into weapons. These standards are clearly more rigorous than our current California standards, which we are constantly reminded that not enough of our students are proficient in. So what happens when testing reveals that not enough of our students are proficient in the Next Generation Science Standards? (Which it will) Will the punching bags be the politicians who set policy and direct funding? Don’t bet on it. As Tony Soprano said, “#$%& rolls down hill.” The blame will rest with you my fellow science teacher, and pity you if you work in a school with high poverty or many recent immigrants.

    Grade level appropriate? – I’m out of my depth on this one since I’m not current with the latest research, but I remember lots of talk that the California standards were not developmentally appropriate, and these seem to introduce harder more abstract ideas at earlier grades. I notice this especially in the Earth Science strand. I know that middle school kids have a hard time distinguishing models from the real thing, and there is lots of model based thinking in middle school. I’m interested in hearing someone with a strong understanding of the research explaining the basis of some of the decisions.

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Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials

Posted: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Recommendations for Publishers, Reviewers, and Educators. The California Science Teachers Association and the science teachers associations of three other Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) west-coast states, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, have co-authored a white paper on priority features of NGSS instructional materials. This is the first time our states have collaborated to convey a common vision on an issue of great importance for the implementation of the NGSS. We understand all too well that for meaningful shifts to happen and to support the full vision of the NGSS, strong K-12 Instructional materials are required. 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 Board Moves Forward Two Key Pieces Supporting CA NGSS Implementation

Posted: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

CSTA President Jill Grace provides public comment at the November 8, 2017, California State Board of Education meeting.

On November 8, 2017, the California State Board of Education (SBE) took action on two items of import relating to the implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). One item was relating to the California Science Test (CAST) and the other to instructional materials. CSTA provided both written and oral comments on both items along with providing input on what CSTA and many other advocates view as a critical component of our state’s emerging accountability system – student access to a broad course of study. 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.

NGSS – Early Attempts and Later Reflections from an Early Implementer Teacher

Posted: Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

by Christa Dunkel

  • There are so many acronyms! Where do I start?
  • What “baby step” should I take first? 
  • How can I make this happen in my elementary classroom?

All of these thoughts and more swam through my head over three years ago when I began my journey into NGSS. I was fresh from a week-long institute with the K-12 Alliance as part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. Much of the week was spent on digging into the NGSS architecture – how the standards are set-up, how to read the standards, what each of the three dimensions meant. Now that I knew how to read them, I needed to figure out how to implement them into my classroom of 24 eight-year-olds. With some guidance from the K-12 Alliance leaders and my own district-level NGSS team, I began the process with some easy “baby steps.” 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

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.

Expanding Your Definition of Informal Science Education

Posted: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

by Lori Walsh

When deciding on a field trip, zoos, aquariums and science centers typically come to mind. These facilities offer students hands-on opportunities to make science observations using inquiry. Teachers can schedule standards aligned workshops or self-guided visits. If your students have already visited these facilities, you can broaden your options by exploring the larger world of Informal Science Education. Nature centers, non-profits, and environmental groups often also offer NGSS aligned programs in the natural setting. Your students can discover the local environment while making memorable experiences. Learn More…

Written by Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh is the Education/Operations Supervisor at SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND California Resort and Informal Science Director for CSTA.