September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Next Generation Science Standards Update

Posted: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

by Pete A’Hearn

The second public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards will be released on January 8, 2013.  I urge all who are interested in a better science education for our kids to attend a public review session or review on your own.  Click here for information on how to submit a review.

In speaking with science teachers, most have high enthusiasm and hope for the new standards. Enthusiasm and hope are good things, but what is really needed is for classroom practitioners to apply their vision and creativity to these standards. For example, as you review, consider the following: Is that the best practice to connect to that standard, or have you used one that is more effective? Will this standard be more appropriate for younger or older students?  Does the chosen cross-cutting concept really connect strongly to this concept?

I have young daughters and these will be their science standards.  Are these the standards our children deserve?

I have been to many meetings where either the NGSS or the Common Core Standards were introduced. Inevitably, classroom teachers ask what the assessment system will be and when they will get curriculum. Assessment seems to be the most strongly felt concern, and this makes sense.  Teachers have learned that the assessment system is the standard.

If an animal is hit with a stick, it will become wary of sticks, and so teachers have similarly become wary of assessments and the systems in which they are embedded.  Teachers understand that assessments and accountability are vital and potentially positive. But most teachers want assessments that give useful and timely feedback, involve more carrots than sticks, don’t narrow the curriculum to that which can be assessed by multiple guess, and don’t push science, art, and history out of the classroom.

In her opening keynote at the 2012 California Science Education Conference, Dr. Helen Quinn acknowledged the critical role of assessment by telling the audience that they need to be patient, that the writers of the NGSS understand the centrality of testing and would rather go slow than be quick get it wrong. That was good advice, but we already have some hints about what the assessments will be like.

Although we will have to wait to learn the grades in which they’ll be administered and how they’ll be weighted, there are some places to go to get a sense of what a well-designed science test for the NGSS might look like. One is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

NEAP is otherwise known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” and in 2009 they pilot-tested some multi-step computer based science items and collected data on the results. The NGSS framework points to it in the section on assessment as an example of what computer based assessments are capable of doing. There are nine items requiring students to select data, draw conclusions based on it, and connect it to the body of science knowledge they have learned.

There are also sample items for the Smarter Balanced Assessment of the Common Core.  This site has examples of the types of items that will be found on the Common Core English and Math tests. It is a strong possibility the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will also be involved in the science tests. The interesting thing to note for science teachers is how many of the English and math items require kids to do the NGSS science practices, especially in the multi-step performance tasks. Check out the math performance task on crickets at the high school level or the elementary English task on animal defenses for good examples of how to integrate science into English and Math.

There are many unanswered questions about the NGSS tests, but there is good reason to hope that they will honor real science teaching more that our current system does. Happy New Year!

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Leave a Reply


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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

Is This a First: Young Female Teens Propose California Water Conservation Legislation?

Posted: Monday, August 28th, 2017

Meet the La Habra Water Guardians from the Optics of their Teacher Moderator, Dr. P.

by Susan M. Pritchard, Ph.D.

You have just won the 2016 Lexus Eco Challenge as one of four First Place Winners in the Middle School Category across the nation! Now, what are you going to do … go to Disneyland? No, not for four of the six La Habra Water Guardians, Disneyland is not in their future at this time. Although I think they would love a trip to Disneyland, (are you listening Mickey Mouse?), at this moment they are focused big time on one major thing … celebrating the passage of their proposed legislation: Assembly Bill 1343 Go Low Flow Water Conservation Partnership Bill and now promoting the enactment of this legislation. Learn More…

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: