The State Board of Education on Tuesday released its new draft science framework, the first update to guidelines for teaching science in California in 11 years. The board will collect public comments on it for 60 days, through Jan. 19.
The California Department of Education has developed an online form for those wishing to provide comments.
The new K-12 science framework is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, adopted by the state board in 2013. The California Department of Education defines frameworks as “blueprints for implementing content standards.”
The new standards were developed to help U.S. students compete with their peers globally in the 21st century and better prepare them for careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
Similar to the Common Core standards, the new science standards place a greater emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving and integrating concepts that have previously been taught separately. They also downplay memorization, while stressing scientific thinking and connections to careers and science-related issues in the world.
The framework includes “guiding principles” for implementing the standards and detailed chapters devoted to coursework at elementary, middle and high school grade levels. It discusses different course options for grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. In addition, the framework includes chapters on instructional strategies, leadership and supports, and instructional resources.
To help teachers thoroughly examine the draft curriculum framework, the California Science Teachers Association is holding 10 group review sessions throughout the state, said Jessica Sawko, executive director of the association. In addition, her organization plans to post a webinar online to guide science teachers as they read the draft and to encourage them to provide feedback.
The association will also release a list of minimum laboratory equipment that science teachers will need based on the new standards, she added. Sawko urged educators to begin experimenting with the new science standards right away, even though teaching materials aligned to the standrds are not yet available.
“Now is the time to take the dives and early steps forward and not wait for materials,” she said. “That’s the message we have been sending to our teachers in the field.”
Stephen Blake, an advisor for the nonprofit advocacy group Children Now, praised the work that has been done on the draft curriculum framework, which spans 1,900 pages. The Instructional Quality Commission that reviewed the draft along with subject area experts, he said, has been very responsive to concerns raised by his organization, which wants to “provide some guidance to educators so they can be as constructive as possible as they reach out to the business community to bring hands-on experiences to children.”
The board is required to adopt the new curriculum framework by Jan. 31, 2017, according to a bill signed Aug. 7. Previously, the framework was expected by Jan. 31, 2016.
The timeline was delayed to give reviewers more time to comb through the curriculum framework, and give feedback to the writers, said Tom Adams, executive director of the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division in the California Department of Education. The state board agreed at its meeting in Sacramento on Nov. 4 to extend the timeline, saying it makes sense to take a thoughtful, thorough approach to the new science curriculum framework.