Reforming Science Education in California–A Primer

As schools across the state implement the Next Generation Science Standards, this new EdSource primer provides an easy-to-read guide for parents and other community members to understand the rationale for the standards and their potential to affect science instruction in California schools.

California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, in 2013, representing the first update to the state’s science standards in nearly two decades. The new standards will significantly shape how science will be taught and tested as well as what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level.

Click here to read an extensive question and answer document by Ed Source (August 30, 2017)

NGSS Bring Change to Science Education

Next Generation Science Standards has a three-dimensional approach to science education: crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas.

Locally, Philip Lala, the science-curriculum coordinator for the Iowa City School District, said the district is transitioning to the new standards and has implemented new curriculum at the elementary level over the last three years. Changes will also appear at the secondary level, he said.

“I think the new standards are positive because they take what we have had in the past a step further,” Lala wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Past standards have focused on simple scientific facts and knowledge, while these standards stress what students should be able to do with that knowledge.”

Click here to read the full story in The Daily Iowan (August 30, 2017)

New science standards come to NYS schools, including new approach to climate change education

The organization representing more than 600 public school boards across the state says how science is taught in the classroom will influence how a generation of students think about climate change.

Starting this fall, new standards for teaching science go into effect in New York.  They put a much more specific emphasis on the role of human activity in global warming.

Click here to listen to the story on WXXI radio (September 1, 2017)

San Francisco Unified School District takes research-based approach to science

As school begins, Vincent Matthews,  superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, writes in the San Francisco Examiner how teachers used the solar eclipse to teach science and how they are embracing a new teaching approach based on the Next Generation Science Standards.

“I gotta tell you: this is way more fun than reading some dry paragraphs from a textbook. And, as studies show, our students holding the “moon” and “sun” will begin to understand this complicated process in a way that will stick with them for years.”

“I’ve been an educator for over 30 years. I’ve seen lots of different kinds of teaching and learning during that time. I’m thrilled to see SFUSD embarking on a research-based approach to teaching science across all schools. It starts today.”

Click here to read the full story in the San Francisco Examiner (August 21, 2017)


How New Science Standards Avoided the Backlash of Common Core

The Wall Street Journal reports on how developers of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) learned from the pushback on Common Core. They report that the Obama administration was asked to not be engaged in promoting the standards and that states were encouraged to take the lead and get local support.

To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the NGSS and another 16 revised their standards to be similar.

“There is something to be said for being the second person through the minefield; you know where to step,” said Peter McLaren, an education consultant and former teacher who helped write the science standards. “Common Core gave us some good guidance as far as what to do differently.”

NSTA was a partner in the development of the standards and many teachers had input. There were 26 teachers on the 41-member committee that drafted the NGSS, which are based on A Framework for K-12 Education published by the National Research Council.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was the major funder in the development of the standards and recently released a report drawing attention to the need for NGSS-based instructional materials and teacher training.

Click here to access the full story in The Wall Street Journal (August 16, 2017: subscription required)




New state science test raises the bar but proficiency drops

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than a year after students took a new state science exam but never got their scores, the state is providing at least a glimpse of how well kids did. Only about 39 percent of high school students passed the new science exam in 2016, meaning those kids were considered “proficient.” Close to 60 percent of grade school students passed, according to an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Those numbers are approximate, based on a complex process used to decide what it takes to pass the exams, and members of the state board of education still have to approve the model used. A vote is expected Wednesday, which could pave the way for schools and families to get long-awaited results in the critical area of science.

Educators and parents alike are expected to see drops in performance compared to results from the old state science exams of previous years. Then, it was usual for 50 to 52 percent of high school students to pass statewide and 75 to 80 percent of grade school students to pass, state data show.

But those exams got shelved, and in 2014 the state adopted Next Generation Science Standards that move away from memorizing science facts and toward analysis in key areas of science and engineering. Those new standards were used in the state science exam that was launched in spring 2016.

“It’s a different test and the bar has been set in a different place; and we’d rather set the bar high and strive for that than set a lower bar, which will lull us into a false sense of security,” said Charles Sprandel, executive director of research and assessment in the sprawling Indian Prairie School District 204 in DuPage County.



Illinois used test items from Washington, D.C., to launch the state’s first NGSS-based science exam in 2015-16, and ISBE hopes to get the results from that exam out in the coming weeks, after the state board makes a decision on proficiency levels, said ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews. She said scoring of the 2017 test is “about to begin.”

Switching to the new science exam is much like when the state switched to new reading and math exams, Nolten said. Scores statewide plummeted compared with prior year exams.

Idaho Science Standards Move Forward

The Idaho State Board also approved a new slate of academic science standards, which the State Board will forward to the 2018 Legislature for consideration. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers approved a temporary slate of science standards after first removing five references to climate change and human impact on the environment. A committee of some of the state’s most-awarded teachers and industry representatives developed the new science standards and massaged the language in an attempt to appease state legislators who argued last year’s proposed standards did not do enough “to address both sides” of the climate change debate.

Scott Cook, the SDE’s director of academics, said Ybarra’s office received more than 1,000 comments as the committee developed the standards. He said the vast majority of comments supported approving the standards that left intact references to climate change. Cook said the bulk of the changes amount to reinserting references to climate change and then adding sections explaining how humans may mitigate rising temperatures.

Click here to read the full story on (August 14, 2017)

Overflow crowds argue for, against proposed science standards for Nebraska public schools

Climate change was a hot topic at the State Board of Education meeting Friday.

An overflow crowd was on hand as members of the public testified for about an hour and a half on the proposed new science standards for the state’s public schools.

The new standards, for the first time, would specifically include the teaching of climate change. However, students would “evaluate the reliability and validity” of climate models before making a project of future climate trends.

Both supporters and critics of the new climate change language spoke.

The favorable comments were mainly from educators, who said the standards include information students need to know. Some critics said the science on climate change is unsettled.

Click here to read the full story in the Omaha World-Herald (August 4, 2017(

Shifting the way we teach science education to help the next generation of scientists and engineers

More than 50 Maine science educators participated in a three-dimensional Science and Engineering workshop held by Thomas College’s Center for Innovation in Education, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, and the Next Generation Science Exemplar System (NGSX) last month.

The program was designed to introduce teachers to the shifts in science teaching and learning, called for by the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education.”

This framework suggests a new set of standards – called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Unlike the common core Math and English Language Arts standards, states may choose to adopt the science standards or not. Although Maine was one of the states involved in the original development of these science standards, they are in the Maine Legislature’s hands right now in the form of a bill.

Click here to read the full story in the Bangor Daily News. (August 4, 2017)

Teachers learn new style of sharing science with students

Greg Brown had been teaching science in the Bay Area for years when the idea came to him for a new style of teaching the subject.

Why not take classic science activities and add a twist — starting with exploration?

“Rather than telling it, let kids find out for themselves,” said Brown, whose colleagues describe as a local legend in STEM education. “A great thing about this new teaching style, you treat everything like a beta test.”

Well, the Next Generation Science Standards beat him to it, but his friend Kevin Brumbaugh from the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College was wondering how teachers were going to learn to implement the NGSS — the new method for teaching science hands-on.

From that interaction, MADE:Science was born.

With the help of Google classroom tech expert Rachel Freed, Brown — who has a background in engineering — and Brumbaugh designed the program.

Freed explained the program applies tech and mobile apps to enhance the hands-on learning, using slow motion technology and measuring devices to interpret trajectory and visualize testing.

Click here to read the full story in the Mercury News (August 1, 2017)