May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.