March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

How Will NGSS Be Held Accountable?

Posted: Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Peter A’Hearn

No fellow teacher, I’m not asking how you will be held accountable for the NGSS. I’m wondering how the NGSS will be held accountable for achieving its goals of improving science education.

Will more students be prepared to work in science and engineering related careers and pass college courses in science and engineering?  Will more kids be excited about science and engineering and choose careers or continuing education in the sciences?

We have been through some big reform movements and we know all about unintended consequences. It wasn’t a goal of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) that science, history, and the arts virtually disappear from the curriculum in high-poverty elementary schools (or was it?).  It certainly wasn’t intended that students use school time for “Let’s Do Our Best on the Test” pep rallies. NCLB was built with noble intentions but had no built-in feedback mechanism. Changing it will require an act of Congress and good luck with that.

What I would like to see is for NGSS to provide us with some benchmarks on the path to achieving the vision in the Framework for K-12 Science Education. What should we see and when and how will we know its working? Will NGSS include a process for self-reflection and revision or will it require a totally new set of standards to replace it if goes off the rails?

Proposing a timeline strengthens the NGSS by providing realistic benchmarks for the changes that it anticipates. The Framework acknowledges that developing curriculum and changing classroom practice will take time and will be frustrating.  Providing realistic expectations now, will have the benefit of preventing critics from saying, “You’ve had three years now and no more kids are going into engineering than before! The NGSS have failed and need to be dumped.”

Here are some specific questions that I’d like to see addressed:

  • One of the goals of the Framework is to limit the number of core ideas (i.e. facts) so there is time for students to learn concepts in more depth and engage in science and engineering practice and application. Some, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have questioned if this has been achieved in the draft versions of the NGSS has that have been released thus far, especially at the high school level.  Is there a way to measure if students are more engaged in practices, and if not, is there a way to review and potentially reduce the number of core ideas? When should we start to see the shift in classroom practice?
  • The Framework says that the development of aligned curricula will take time. When can we anticipate well-designed instructional materials that guide teachers in teaching the NGSS? Using the Common Core standards implementation as a guide, we can estimate that for California it will be three or four years (assuming legislative action is taken to allow for that process to take place).
  • When can we expect to see more students pursuing science and engineering degrees in college?
  • Will businesses see that more students are prepared to do work in science and engineering fields? How will this be measured?
  • Are we going to measure how interested kids are in engineering and science? Studies have shown that the more science classes that students take, the less interested they are in science- will NGSS help to reverse that?
  • NGSS is supposed to be accompanied with new kinds of computer-based tests that will measure student’s ability to engage in science practices. What if we find out that instead of actually doing science, kids are just sitting in front of computers practicing taking the tests?

Science teachers have high hopes for the NGSS, but experience tells us to be wary of unintended consequences.  What would you like to hold NGSS accountable for?

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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CSTA Endorses March for Science

Posted: Monday, March 27th, 2017

The California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) stands with our science and science education colleagues in endorsing the March For Science and its associated activities.

The decision by the CSTA Board of Directors to support the March for Science was based on the understanding that this is an opportunity to advocate for our mission of high quality science education for all and to advance the idea that science has application to everyday life, is a vehicle for lifelong learning, and the scientific enterprise expands our knowledge of the world around us. The principles and goals of the March for Science parallel those of CSTA to assume a leadership role in solidarity with our colleagues in science and science education and create an understanding of the value of science in the greater community. CSTA believes that the integrity of the nature of science and that the work of scientists and science educators should be valued and supported. We encourage your participation to stand with us.

There are over 30 satellite marches planned for the April 22, 2017 March for Science in California (to find a march near you, click on “marches” in the upper right of the main page, select “satellite marches” and use the search feature). We encourage members who participate in the March for Science to share their involvement and promotion of science and science education. Feel free to promote CSTA on your signs and banners. For those on social media, you may share your involvement via Twitter, @cascience and our Facebook groups.

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.

California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

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.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

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…

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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

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…

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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

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 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.