September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Teachers Discussing the Challenges of Implementing NGSS

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Peter A’Hearn

The following is a conversation that took place between a group of science teachers on a patio on a warm Southern California night after a long day of science training. The topic of conversation was the challenges of implementing NGSS.

K. (2nd grade teacher): I am overwhelmed by the huge shift in instruction and the level of rigor that is being asked for. It’s overwhelming. When you think about time and what we have to doI do lots of rigor but when you think about other teachers who are on page 345 in their study book and how they are going to have to change.

P. (8th grade teacher): In order to have kids do what we just did (in the training) will need a huge shift in classroom culture. I heard this morning that it will take nine years to have kids prepared for NGSS.

K.: That’s the danger of the pendulum shift. We are giving more autonomy to kids– teachers have a hard time letting go. That is the big shift.

Mi. (1st grade teacher): If you have a teacher who can create great engagement then the kids will go with the shift.

P.: The key thing you said was that it depends on the teacher.

D. (4th grade teacher): It’s going to take a lot of support to get NGSS to look right and feel right.

J. (high school biology teacher): At my school when I talked about NGSS nobody got it–they have only heard of Common Core.

Ma. (7th grade teacher): If it doesn’t click fast they will get discouraged and give up fast–they need to see it.

D.: Initial success or total failure”–the motto of the Air Force explosive ordinance disposal team.

J.: It’s not that we don’t do parts of what NGSS does–we do PBL, we do projects–but we don’t do it continuously. It’s like it’s flipping–right now projects are interspersed in the teaching but now the projects drive the thing.

P.: I think it’s a big shift in classroom culture—real inquiry where they don’t get the answer at the end of the day—where they go home without the answer and where the answer comes from class consensus and not the teacher.

Mi.: The kind of writing that we worked on today for constructing explanations—that needs to be happen over and over again with kids to be successful and teachers are just used to doing it once or twice a year. That is a huge demand on time.

J.: At my school, students are uncomfortable without having a right answer–am I correct or am I wrong? But in NGSS they are supposed to be leading, they are not used to that.

Ma.: Kids are conditioned–they want to be told the answer.

P.: What I’m hearing is they don’t want to persevere.

J.: Perseverance is a big issue—I don’t know if it’s the culture of the classroom or the wider culture.

Ma.: The outside world is not going to go away.

P.: I worked with a class of emotionally disturbed kids at my school on science–which sounds challenging, but the group has established norms that actually let you talk about things in more depth than in other classes.

Mi.: If we think about the opportunities of the perfect storm of CCSS and NGSS, it’s the only time in my long career that ELA, Math, Science, and the coming Social Studies framework that they are all aligned and they dovetail. It’s an opportunity to seize that they are all connected in a way that helps people think differently about how they learn.

Message on a wine cork: “Over a bottle of Wine Many a Friend is Found”- Yiddish Proverb

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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.

3 Responses

  1. Thank you for this article. I believe it is a good representation of what everyone will be processing through. The one thing that I have learned from all of this is that the closer an instructor is to the scientist side of the spectrum, the easier it is to ‘quilt’ together ideas, lessons and units that are NGSS friendly.

    If it is helpful to anyone out there, I have been using the cloud and social media to create a bank of resources and ideas along with the opportunity to create conversation… If anyone out there want to join you can find the resources on Symbaloo by search for ‘Webmixes’ with NGSS and LCER . Another resource that has the advantage of sharing and conversation can be found on FB @

    Enjoy what remains of summer! Matthew

  2. PS… Another resource that some may find useful can be found @

    All for the Cause, Cheers, Matt

  3. […] Implementing NGSS will undoubtedly challenge most schools and teachers in participating states on several fronts. Its emphasis on process-oriented tasks and dynamic, student-centered content will require large shifts in culture, and place heavy demands on time. Many students and teachers will be outside of their comfort zones; some teachers may not be comfortable covering engineering practices, while some kids are used to being given the right answer as opposed to an inquiry-based approach that encourages problem-solving and debate. Add to that the fact that girls, minorities and other underrepresented students are falling behind in STEM compared to well-funded school districts, and the need for schools to get all kids up to speed and prepared for the future job market becomes even more crucial and challenging. Recently, science teachers sounded off on just a few of these challenges (Teachers Discussing the Challenges of Implementing NGSS). […]

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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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.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.