The State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new science framework that makes California the first state in the nation to produce a framework based on the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 grades.
“This has been a long time in coming. It is really an exemplar for the nation,” said Ilene Straus, vice president of the board.
The framework, which represents a major overhaul of how science is taught to the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students, is essentially a blueprint for creating a curriculum based on the new standards that can be implemented in the classroom. The standards, more commonly known as NGSS, emerged after educational leaders nationwide met in 2010 and pushed for rewriting a science curriculum that had not been changed since the late 1990s.
At the core of the standards is the belief that science should no longer rely on memorizing facts and writing essays but on experiments and hands-on exploration of specific subjects.
While the new standards create common practices for teaching science, the framework consists of several chapters detailing what is to be taught at specific grade levels: transitional kindergarten; kindergarten through 2nd grades; 3rd through 5th; 6th through 8th; and the high school grades. Transitional kindergarten is a publicly funded program year for 4-year-olds who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 and miss the cut-off date for kindergarten.
Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said the new approach will dramatically upgrade and modernize science instruction.
“This framework will help our students become the scientists and technology leaders of the future as well as citizens who are knowledgeable and understanding of the natural world and the environment,” he said in a statement.
Work to develop the framework began three years ago after an extensive public process that generated more than 3,000 public comments.
Beginning next spring, the California Department of Education will hold events around the state to start preparing educators and administrators in all aspects of NGSS instruction. The department also is developing a new online science assessment that will reflect the standards and framework.
By Jan. 31, the Instructional Quality Commission, which is an advisory body to the state board, plans to recommend a curriculum framework that would begin preparing teachers for the next milestones in rolling out the new science standards in their classrooms.
In 2018, the state board is scheduled to adopt textbooks and other instructional materials aligned to NGSS standards and the framework.