The California State Board of Education adopted the new California science standards, called Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013, and adopted the framework for the standards and the state implementation plan in 2014. Shortly, thereafter, the Novato Unified School District begin the process towards adopting the new Science standards. The first phase was the awareness phase where districts began the internal process of providing teachers and administrators with an overview of the new Science standards. The second phase is the transition phase required more in-depth trainings for teachers to support the alignment of their instruction, curriculum and assessments with the new standards. Over the last year, teachers have had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the standards and have started to consider and implement ways to transition their instruction.
We will move into the implementation phase for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) over the next year. The NUSD Science Leadership Team, made up of teachers, instructional coaches and site administrators, have attended several informational conferences as well as in-depth trainings to develop a robust understanding of the standards and have begun leading the full implementation of NGSS. Further this taskforce will serve to review instructional materials and have developed a comprehensive professional development plan for our teachers. Below you can see the district’s implementation timeline alongside the California Department of Education implementation timeline:
The most significant change for the New California Science Standards is the move toward three dimensional learning. The three dimensions include The Disciplinary Core Ideas (The content) The Science and Engineering Practices (How science is done) and the Cross Cutting Concepts (connections between the disciplines). The previous standards (1998) included the content but were missing the other dimensions. The NUSD graduate profile also emphasizes this critical shift in education, where teachers shift from being a deliverer of information to a facilitator of learning. Ultimately, this provides students with experiences so they develop the skills to deeply understand the content and how it relates to science in practice.
Based on these three dimensions of learning, the new standards have some implicit and explicit implications for the curriculum and instruction. First, as noted above in the timeline, California Department of Education will be releasing the adopted instructional materials list in November of 2018. As a district, we will be reviewing and working with different curriculums to ensure that they appropriate align to the standards. As mentioned above, NGSS requires that teachers shift their instruction to account for the three-dimensional natures of the standards.
Second, the authors of NGSS were explicit in ensuring that the new Science standards provided all students with the opportunity to access a rigorous science education that would prepare them for the global economy. The new science standards require high schools to incorporate additional standards as well as their three dimensional nature for all students . Ultimately, this means that required high school science courses for graduation need to increase to accommodate the three main sciences: Life, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences. This also aligns more appropriately with the expectation that colleges have for students which recommends three college-prep science courses. Further, this increased rigor provides an equitable expectation for all students and aligns well with our Equity Imperative Declaration. Historically, our top achieving students have always taken at least three years of science to meet the expectations of colleges. Increasing the requirements for all students will ensure that NUSD has high expectations and prepare all students for college and career. The new wording for Board Policy 6146.1 reflects the changes based on NGSS to increase the graduation requirements for science from two to three courses to cover physical, biological and earth and space sciences. Below is an example of the proposed course pathway for sciences at high school. The board policy will continue to be broad to allow for flexibility in the progressions of courses at the high school.