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Next Generation Science Standards

Myths and Facts

A very helpful list of FAQs have been provided by CDE, click here to access NGSS for California FAQs.

Curriclum and Framework Myths

Implementation Myths

Integrated Middle School Science Myths

Assessment Myths

Common Core Science Myth

NGSS Development and Adoption Myths

Last updated: January 15, 2014

 Myth

 Fact

NGSS represents the curriculum for science instruction in California.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions folks have about NGSS. The standards, or performance expectations, indicate what students should be able to do at the conclusion of instruction. They tell us nothing about how we teach or plan instruction to help students achieve that level of performance. NGSS authors go to great pains to point out that the document is not curriculum, but as educators we all want to read the document and infer what instruction looks like. The Science Framework and curriculum come next.

 Myth

 Fact

The new science curriculum framework based on the NGSS has already been written.

Just as many people believe that NGSS has already been adopted, some people also believe that we will simply use the K-12 Framework for Science Education that served as the basis for NGSS. Not true! California will need to write a curriculum framework that will help teachers implement the new standards adopted by the board in their own classrooms. The order in which events transpire will transpire is:

  1. Adoption of new standards (9/4/2013)
  2. Write a curriculum framework for California based on the new standards (2013-2016)
  3. Professional development (ongoing)
  4. Implementation (2017/2018 at the earliest)
  5. Instructional materials adoption (2017/2018)
  6. State assessments based on new standards ("as soon as feasible" - based on AB 484)

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 Myth

 Fact

Now that the State Board of Education has adopted the NGSS, you will need to implement NGSS for the 2013-2014 school year.

The adoption of new standards sets in motion the next steps (see previous myth). Implementation in classrooms will not be expected until 2017-2018 at the very earliest.

 Myth

 Fact

Implementation of NGSS just means tweaking how we currently teach science.

The vision of NGSS is that science education focuses on “knowledge in use.” Currently, the CA standards focus on knowledge. In order to maximize the vision of NGSS, teaching science must include interweaving of the 3 components: science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross cutting concepts. For this reason, a transformation of current instructional practices is needed to reflect the NGSS vision.

 Myth

 Fact

CA science teachers will implement NGSS immediately upon adoption.

The timeline for implementation of standards, once adopted, is a local decision. However, based on the current timeline for the development of the CA NGSS framework, assessments, and instructional materials adoption process, we don't anticipate full implementation of the NGSS until 2017-18 at the EARLIEST.

 Myth

 Fact

Teachers will be expected to implement NGSS without support.

The science education community stands ready to assist teachers in implementation. Organizations like the California Science Teachers Association, the California Science Project, and the K-12 Alliance, as well as science informals (e.g., museums) and the business community are seeking ways to assist in the transition and full implementation to NGSS in anticipation of teachers’ needs. In addition, there is fuding and there may be additional funding for PD available for NGSS implementation.

 Myth

 Fact

My district says we have to start now to implement NGSS.

The changes for science education required by NGSS are significant. It will take time to implement with fidelity the vision of NGSS. In the next 1-2 years, even NGSS is suggesting that states and districts think strategically about how to best move forward their implementation efforts.

The California Department of Education, in conjunction with a variety of partners is developing a strategic implementation plan for NGSS. This plan should be available by the end of this school year (Spring 2014).

In the meantime, a good place to start implementing the vision of NGSS is with the science and engineering practices and with engineering performance expectations or with the cross-cutting concepts. For some tips and ideas on how to do this, visit the NGSS blog on California Classroom Science.

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 Myth

 Fact

The grade 6-8 standards represent three courses in Earth, life and physical sciences, sort of like what we have now.

The 1998 California science content standards in grades 6, 7, and 8 include standards in Earth, life, and physical sciences in each grade, with emphasis given to one subject in each grade as follows: 6th grade, Earth/Space science; 7th grade, life science; and 8th grade, physical science.

As released by Achieve, the grade 6-8 performance expectations (PEs) in NGSS represent the combined content and skills to be mastered by the end of middle school (8th grade). Achieve did not assign to particular PEs to specific grades due to the various circumstances found across the country (some states teach integrated science in middle school, some teach discipline specific science in middle school, while others allow individual districts to decide).

In his original recommendation, SPI Torlakson offered distinct Grade 6, 7, and 8 PEs (extrapolated from the combined Grade 6-8 performance expectations). His recommendation takes into account developmental appropriateness, alignment with math Common Core and alignment with grades K-5 science standards which precede. Acheive incorporated California's integrated learning progressions for middle school as a part of Appendix K.

At the November 6, 2013 meeting of the State Board of Education, SPI Torlakson modified his recommendation and the modified recommendation was approved by the State Board of Education as follows:

The Superintendent recommends that:

  • The California SBE adopt the proposed integrated model as the preferred model for middle grades science instruction.
  • The the SBE requests the CDE to reconvene the Science Expert Panel to develop as an alternative model a discipline specific model based upon the domain specific model that is outlined by Achieve in the NGSS Appendix K.

 Myth

 Fact

The grade 9-12 standards represent the courses that will be offered in high schools.

This has been a major source of confusion and concern for high school teachers. The performance expectations in NGSS represent what all students should know when they leave high school. By the end of that time, students should have had the opportunity to master the PEs outlined in NGSS. If you teach a high school chemistry class or physics class you will likely teach more than what is included in the Physical Science performance expectations of NGSS. That's okay and to be expected. NGSS is not curriculum; in other words, teachers should not look at NGSS and assume that the list is all-inclusive for what a course might include, especially for high school physics or chemistry.

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 Myth

 Fact

CA should have a grade span arrangement of the PEs for middle school like they are suggesting for high school.

California is a K-8 instructional materials adoption state, MANDATING that standards be assigned to each grade level, K-8.

 Myth

 Fact

Currently CA's middle school science is discipline specific.

Each grade has an EMPHASIS on one discipline, with standards from the other two disciplines. For example, in 6th grade the emphasis is on earth science, but also includes standards that address thermal energy from physical science and ecology from life science. Link to current standards.

 Myth

 Fact

The arrangement (learning progressions) of the PEs in the CA middle school standards do not align with NGSS.

NGSS is arranged by Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) and by topics (performance expectations that are bundled to address a science topic). The recommended CA middle school learning progression is built from the topic arrangement suggested by NGSS. Additionally, the CA integrated learning progression has been included in Appendix K as a model by NGSS for other states to use at the middle school level.

 Myth

 Fact

By adopting its own arrangement of PEs for middle school California will not match what the rest of the country is adopting.

States that adopt NGSS will have a choice as to how they assign PEs at the middle grades. Nationally, one-third of the states have discipline specific content at middle school; one-third of the states have an integrated model; and one-third of the states have local choice as to what is taught when. Therefore there is little possibility of any state “matching” the arrangement of PEs at a SPECIFIC grade level. What does match are the PEs for the 6-8 grade span. By the end of 8th grade all students should have had the same science performance expectations.

 Myth

 Fact

You will need a new credential to teach integrated middle school.

Middle school science is considered general or introductory science. You can teach middle school science with a multi-subject credential (with the appropriate subject matter authorization) or any single subject science credential. Click here for more information on credentialing.

 Myth

 Fact

If science is integrated, few teachers will have the content expertise in all of the disciplines.

The myth is partially true. However, a goal of NGSS as stated by Dr. Bruce Alberts is, “The [final product’s] strong emphasis in the NGSS on cross-cutting concepts and on active learning has been enforced by mixing standards for the different sciences (and engineering) in each year of middle school. Thus, the students will reinforce what they learned the previous year, returning to related ideas, and the focus in every year will be on SCIENCE ITSELF, not biology, or earth sciences, or the physical sciences.”

With this goal in mind, strong professional development is needed for all teachers. Additionally, middle school departments have the freedom to think strategically about scheduling and collaborating to maximize the talents of their staff.

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 Myth

 Fact

Science assessment is going away.

Assessment to meet NCLB will continue at grades 5, 8 and 10 until federal requirements are revised or changed. In 2014, the science CST will address the 1998 CA standards as they currently are: in grades 5, 8 and 10.

At this time, it is uncertain as to what science assessment will look like in 2015 and beyond. Currently the assessment division is looking at computer-based assessment that more closely matches NAEP and PISA, i.e., includes performance tasks and not just multiple choice assessment items.

 Myth

 Fact

There will be a Smarter Balance assessment for science.

Currently, there is NO national assessment for science. However, a National Research Council committee has released Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards which describes the types of new assessments that will be needed to gauge student progress. The report also offers examples of the types of questions and tasks that will be needed to assess student learning.

 Myth

 Fact

A national 8th grade test will only assess one discipline.

If a national 8th grade test is developed it would likely assess ALL 6th-8th grade PEs.

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 Myth

 Fact

There are Common Core Science Standards.

Common Core (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, addresses literacy in science, NOT science content. Science content is only found in NGSS. However, NGSS makes explicit the connections to CCSS in ELA and mathematics. California used these connections to place PEs at certain grade levels. For example, in the preferred integrated learning progression adopted by the State Board of Education in November 2013 space science is at 8th grade due to the alignment with CCSS-mathematics.

 Myth

 Fact

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were adopted in April 2013.

Achieve, the group that spearheaded the writing of NGSS, considered feedback from thousands of reviewers across the United States and incorporated changes into the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards, which were released on April 9, 2013. California is one of the Lead States in the NGSS process, which means that as a state we also provided feedback. California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, K-12 on September 4, 2013.

 Myth

 Fact

Science teachers were not involved in the writing and development process of the NGSS.

California educators and other state stakeholders provided feedback through a variety of mechanisms. Hundreds of educators participated in focus groups and group review sessions around the state, with hundreds of us providing feedback directly to Achieve during the public review process for the first and second drafts of the standards. Members of the CSTA leadership and county office personnel hosted numerous meetings to aid that process. After the final version of the standards was released in April, the State Board of Education hosted three town-hall meetings (one was a webcast) to solicit input from interested parties. CSTA also conducted a survey of its membership. This information has been shared with the Department of Education. The superintendent’s Science Expert Panel, made up of 27 California educator, scientist, and non-educator experts, carefully reviewed the standards and their appropriateness for California students.

Developed by representatives from CSTA, CSP, K-12 Alliance, COE, and CDE - August 2013; updated by CSTA January 2014

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