March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

With the Uncertain Status of New Standards for California, What Do I Do Right Now?

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

“What do I do right now?” Whenever I talk to science teachers about NGSS and the proposed California science standards, this is the first question I get.  With the pending-approval status of new California standards, this is an important and pressing question that needs an answer sooner rather than later. To quell their concerns, my answer is, “Focus on the Science and Engineering Practices.” Although this may seem a bit flippant, in reality it is something that every teacher has control over. It is also a strategy that will resonate with the expectations of the Common Core Standards that are being implemented throughout California this year.

I am not so concerned right now that teachers begin changing their curriculum to address the new set of Disciplinary Core Ideas because many of those are similar to the current California Standards. They may be written in a different format and there may be different applications of the content in question, but essentially, the Disciplinary Core Ideas represent the content of science, something that teachers have gotten quite proficient at sharing. I am also not concerned right now with a heavy emphasis on the Cross Cutting Concepts. Deep down in their souls, most science teachers know certain concepts permeate all of areas science. For example, the ideas that scale can impact function or that energy exists in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space science are not foreign to science teachers. In our current “silo” approach to the sciences, however, we may talk about these cross cutting concepts using different terms or calculations and we seldom emphasize that they are the same ideas. Clearly there is work to be done and although we will ultimately need to focus on our use of the specific Disciplinary Core Ideas and the Cross Cutting Concepts outlined in the NGSS/CA science standards, for now the focus needs to be on the practices.

In our current standards, the “practices” (Investigation and Experimentation) are relegated to a separate chapter at the end of all of the content. Consequently, these “practices” are often taught for the sake of the practice, devoid of a connection to meaningful content and in some schools not taught at all. In the NGSS, the “practices” are integrated into every Performance Expectation. It will no longer be sufficient to do one lab activity to validate the concepts in a chapter or to provide a framework for demonstrating vocabulary prowess. Instead, teachers will be asked to engage their students on a daily basis in the “practices” of science and engineering. Teachers will need to rethink and redesign their lessons to include modeling, argumentation, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions on a daily basis. This is a major shift from the “business as usual” lecture, practice, test format that we sometimes see today. In many ways, science teaching is coming full circle. For those who have been teaching for more than 20 years, it almost looks like the pendulum is swinging back.

So, in response to the “What do I do right now?” question, my recommendation to focus on the practices makes sense. We should put all of our energy into incorporating new ways of teaching to engage students in authentic science practices, building their abilities to think critically, to analyze data and observations, and to communicate effectively. Building these strategies and skills into lessons now will prepare both the teacher and the student to make the next leap when new standards are approved. Instead of building an entirely new curriculum structure, the key practices piece will already be in place allowing teachers to focus in the content and concepts and how they will be integrated into a vibrant dynamic teaching philosophy.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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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.

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

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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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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

Volunteer

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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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Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

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Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

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Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.