The California Science Teachers Association and the nonprofit education research and development agency WestEd are seeking a half-dozen school districts to take the lead in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.
In exchange for committing to making science a core subject and participating in a new K-8 California Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative, the districts would receive funding to train teams of teachers and administrators in the new standards over the next four years. Those interested must file a preliminary application to WestEd by April 30.
“This is an exciting opportunity for districts that are ready to move forward with the new standards,” said Laura Henriques, who chairs the science education department at California State University, Long Beach and is president of the state science teachers association. “It’s also important to the state for early adopting districts to serve as models.”
Last fall, the State Board of Education adopted the new K-12 standards, which are the science counterpart of the Common Core standards in English language arts and math; they emphasize science concepts over rote knowledge and the application of science processes to solve problems and think critically.
The Next Generation Science Standards are a states-guided initiative undertaken by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have adopted them so far. However, many California districts have not yet begun to phase in the new standards, and the state is at least several years away from holding districts accountable for them. The State Board of Education is just starting a two-year process
that will lead to the adoption of the curriculum frameworks, a comprehensive grade-by-grade teaching guide. And the state Department of Education has yet to decide when tests on the new standards will be created – and by whom.
Meanwhile, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation* has agreed to fund the initiative, which WestEd will manage, to kickstart district implementation. For the five to seven districts chosen, it will consist of leadership training for key teachers and administrators, training in content and teaching techniques for dozens of teachers and creation of districtwide implementation plans for the new standards.
Districts will have to share some of the costs. They will also have to choose integrated science courses, which blend elements of earth science, life science and physical science for middle school grades, instead of teaching the disciplines separately, one grade at a time. The new standards allow both options, and there are strong views among teachers on both sides, but this initiative requires the integrated approach.
The state Department of Education and Achieve, a nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization, helped to create the initiative.
*The S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation is also one of EdSource’s funders.