January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

NGSS Early Implementation Begins!

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

Galt Elementary School District embraces change. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

Galt Elementary School District embraces change. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

On Sunday, August 3, 2014, 120 teachers, administrators, and other science specialists from eight California school districts and two California Charter Management Organizations, converged on Stone Brewery in San Diego. The meet-and-greet reception and ice breaker transitioned into brief speeches by K-12 Alliance Statewide Director Kathy DiRanna, Senior Vice President of Content Research and Development for Achieve Incorporated Steve Pruitt, and California State Board of Education member Trish Boyd Williams. Everyone in the room could feel that they were about to be part of something very special. I was fortunate to be one of many in the crowd that night. Below are some of my impressions of the days that followed.

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A Time of Change
Graciously hosted by High Tech High in San Diego, the first day of training began with activities that invited participants to consider what happens when people are asked to change. Pairs were instructed to look each other over. Then, turning back to back, each individual changed five things about themselves. Facing each other again, each partner identified what the other person had altered. When asked to repeat the process with five additional changes, groans of dissension could be heard throughout the room along with comments such as, “We can’t change anymore than we already have!” “I could barely change the first five!” The presenters Karen Cerwin and Rita Starnes – K-12 Alliance Regional Directors – closed the activity by pointing out that once people have made a change, it is difficult when they are asked to change even more, or when the change that occurs is not the change they envisioned. Participants were challenged to keep this in mind while moving towards the Next Generation of Science Standards and in the future while helping their colleagues do the same. Presenters cautioned that we must continue to move from A (the old Science standards) towards B (the NGSS) and not go from A towards B and back to A again – which is very easy to do. Steve Pruitt spoke of the need to move towards NGSS implementation when he stated that the more teachers think that what they already do is the NGSS, the more they steer away from the intent of the NGSS: “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Cadres Guide Teacher Learning

Jennifer Granahan  (Galt Elementary School District) shows off her Mars habitat. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

Jennifer Granahan (Galt Elementary School District) shows off her Mars habitat. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

All NGSS Early Implementers participated in a nine-hour Cadre (three hours on three consecutive days). The intent of the Cadre was to experience an NGSS learning sequence as an adult learner and to provide a snapshot of what NGSS might look like in a classroom. My Cadre leaders were Susan Gomez-Zwiep, CSU Long Beach; Robert Sherriff, San Juan Unified School District; David Polcyn, CSU San Bernardino; and Norm Herr, CSU Northridge. We began with an activity that illustrated the transfer of energy between two solids. Following the completion of the activity, discussion with our colleagues, and explanations of the phenomena from other groups, we each wrote down our understanding of the concepts – this was our mental model. Our mental models were revised each time we gained additional information throughout the three-day Cadre – information that came from observations, data, group dialogue, readings, and direct instruction. The power of a good mental model is taking what is known and applying it to a new situation. Ultimately, we used our mental models to design a Mars habitat (Go Engineering!) that maintained heat and created precipitation.

AdministratorsCritical Team Members

San Diego School District - Team Building (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

San Diego School District – Team Building
(Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

Each district involved in the NGSS Early Implementation process has at least one administrator on their team. Often they attended training sessions with the rest of their groups, at other times they trained separately – such
Abrams Planetarium

as a session that addressed how to observe the classroom of an Early Implementer. Due to the logistics of not only implementing the NGSS, but also being part of Early Implementation in the state, administrators are crucial members of each Early Implementation team. They have an understanding of how their districts work internally that will help the Early Implementer teachers navigate through the next school year more successfully. Each administrator is able to address the unique concerns of their team members and is able to put to rest some of the anxiety about what the next year will hold.

Let the Journey Begin!

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday August 8, after over 36 hours of training, my fellow Early Implementers and I re-convened at the High Tech High building where we had started five days earlier. After closing comments from Kathy DiRanna and her K-12 Alliance team, we headed to our cars and to the airport, a little tired and a little overwhelmed, but also excited to begin the journey that we all knew would affect not only California students, but those all across the nation.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

3 Responses

  1. I am curious to know which districts were represented. Either I read the article too rapidly or they were not mentioned. Was the largest district in the state represented?

    This article seems to indicate that the cheer-leaders are in place and the game is ready to begin. It is my feeling that the “team” they represent could be missing several important players.

    The exercise about addressing change was interesting and probably was required for the cheer-leaders. However, what if the new program is really inferior and many of the teachers called upon to play the new game know that the rules are wrong?

  2. Dear Bill,
    That information was in our July reporting, here is a link back to that article: http://www.classroomscience.org/the-california-k-8-ngss-early-implementation-initiative-launches.

    Selected in a competitive application process, with input from expert reviewers, and funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the eight California districts are: Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Kings Canyon Unified School District, Lakeside Union School District, Oakland Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Tracy Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District.

    The two California CMOs in the Initiative are Aspire and High Tech High, whose participation is funded by the Hastings/Quillin Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

  3. Bill,
    In order to keep the article length manageable and not repeat too much information that was already published in CCS, I inserted an excerpt from Kathy DiRanna’s article (with link) that gives full details on the selected districts and the Initiative – see insert above. Thanks for your interest.

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