May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Update from the California Department of Education: California Alternative Discipline Specific Model for Grades 6-8

Posted: Monday, February 10th, 2014

In September 2013, the California State Board of Education (SBE) unanimously approved the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as California’s new K-12 science standards. In November 2013, the SBE approved an integrated model of these standards, developed by the California Science Expert Panel (SEP), as the preferred model for California middle grades six through eight.

At the same November SBE meeting, the SBE approved a recommendation by the Superintendent of Public Instruction to reconvene the SEP in order “to develop … as an alternative model … a discipline specific model” for the grade span of 6-8. The model was to be based upon the guidance for developing a domain specific model as outlined by Achieve in the NGSS Appendix K.

The Board’s clear intent in their November action was for there to be one Integrated NGSS Model in California for grades 6-8 that was preferred by the SPI and the Board, and one Discipline Specific NGSS Model in California for grades 6-8, as an alternate. 

In December 2014, the SEP reconvened to develop a domain specific model of the NGSS. The following describes that process. 

For the California Alternative Discipline Specific NGSS Model for Grades–6–8, the SEP considered the guidance provided by NGSS in Appendix K concerning the development of the alternative domain model. As a first step, the SEP organized grade-banded Performance Expectations (PEs) into content-specific courses that match the three science domains of Physical Science, Life Science, and Earth and Space Science. One course is assigned to each science domain. Each domain is organized by Core Topics, which consist of PEs, Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs), Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts (CCs). The Engineering domain was integrated in these course models rather than presented as a separate course in this sequence. (The four stand-alone engineering PEs in each of the grade bands are connected to all three courses.)

In addition to the arrangement of the domain specific content, the SEP also considered what content, if any, from the other science domains would need to be introduced in order to facilitate student’s full understanding of each PE.

Once the three middle grades discipline specific courses were developed, the SEP designed three configurations of the discipline courses for implementation during the middle grade span 6-8.  The grade level configuration of the three discipline specific models that are being considered are Model 1: 6th grade Earth and Space, 7th grade Life, and 8th grade Physical Science; Model 2: 6th grade Physical, 7th grade Earth and Space, and 8th grade Life Science; and Model 3: 6th grade Life, 7th grade Physical, and 8th grade Earth and Space Science.  The three alternative discipline specific models and benefits and challenges for implementing each model can be viewed at the CDE NGSS Web page.

Request for Educator and Public Comment

The CDE is seeking input from California middle grades science teachers, administrators, and others in the public as to which of the three potential NGSS discipline specific models they believe would be best for CA as an alternative to the preferred NGSS Integrated Model for grades 6-8.

After gathering this input, the Superintendent of Public Instruction will subsequently make a decision about which model will be endorsed by the CDE and notify the State Board at or before its May 2014 meeting.

To view the proposed discipline specific models, please visit the CDE NGSS Web page.

To submit input regarding the potential discipline specific models, please click on the following survey link https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NGSS-MS-preference. The survey will remain open through Friday, February 28, 2014.  

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.

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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.