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NGSS Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California.

FAQ’s by Achieve, the managing partner of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) External link opens in new window or tab..

Background
  1. What are academic content standards?
  2. What are the Next Generation Science Standards?
  3. Are the NGSS the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for science?
  4. Why new science standards now?
  5. How were the NGSS developed?
  6. What are Crosscutting Concepts?
  7. What are Scientific and Engineering Practices?
  8. Who is Achieve, Inc.?
  9. How was California involved in the development of the NGSS?
  10. What was the adoption process?
Middle Grades Science
  1. Why did the SEP create an integrated approach to middle grades science?
  2. Will middle grades science teachers need a new credential to teach the proposed integrated learning progression for middle grades 6–8?
Structure of the NGSS
  1. How are the NGSS for California different than the 1998 California Science Standards?
  2. How are the standards arranged?
  3. Why does the structure of the NGSS look so different than the previous California Science standards?
  4. How are the NGSS for California different than the NGSS national standards?
  5. How does the NGSS address students with special needs (English learners, students with disabilities, Gifted and Talented Education)?
  6. If California adopts an integrated arrangement of PEs for Grades 6-8, will it match what the rest of the country is doing?
High School Arrangement
  1. How will high school courses be arranged?
Background
  1. What are “curriculum frameworks”?
  2. When will the new Frameworks for Science be available?
  3. When will new textbooks and instructional materials be available?
Assessments
  1. Will California students still take California Standards Tests for science during the 2013–2014 school year?
  2. When will there be new assessments for the NGSS?
  3. Will Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) have science assessments for NGSS?
Implementation
  1. When are schools expected to implement NGSS for California?
  2. Where is the implementation plan for NGSS in California?
  3. Can I start implementing the NGSS in my classroom now?
Resources
  1. How can I learn more about the NGSS for California?
  2. Where do I send questions about the NGSS for California?
  3. How do I sign up for the NGSS Listserv?

Background

  1. What are academic content standards?
    Standards-based education guides the content that students should master in each grade and shapes curriculum development at every grade level. Teachers and local school officials, in collaboration with families and community partners, use these standards to help students achieve academic success. Although the standards are intended to provide objectives for students and teachers, decisions about classroom instruction are generally made at the local level by the teacher, local administrator, and/or the locally-elected school board.

    California’s standards have been hailed for their rigor, setting high expectations for all students. Starting in 1997, California has adopted content standards in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, history–social science, science, visual and performing arts, health, world language, physical education, school library standards, and career technical education. California also has standards in English language development (ELD), which outlines the stages of English proficiency that English learners progress through as they become proficient in the English language. All of the content standards are posted in Portable Document Format (PDF) and Word format on the CDE Content Standards Web page.

    All of California’s content standards provide detailed expectations for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The ultimate goal of the education system in California is to ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum and instruction in order that they may meet or exceed the knowledge and skills outlined in the State’s academic content standards.

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  2. What are the Next Generation Science Standards?
    The NGSS describe the key scientific ideas and practices that all students should learn by the time they graduate from high school. The NGSS detail performance expectations for kindergarten through grades 8 and high school. The NGSS are not curriculum. How students reach those performance expectations are left to teacher’s expertise.

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  3. Are the NGSS the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for science?
    No. The Common Core State Standards (PDF) include literacy components in science, but they do not include the content that are the NGSS for California. However, the NGSS for California are aligned with the CCSS in English language arts and Mathematics. This alignment was used when placing performance expectations at certain grade levels. For example, space science is in eighth grade (DOC) due to the alignment with the CCSS for Mathematics (PDF).

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  4. Why new science standards now?
    The current California Science Standards were adopted in 1998. In the last 15 years, there have been significant advances in science and technology; therefore updated science standards are necessary for students of California.

    Senate Bill 300 External link opens in new window or tab., Chartered in 2011, requires State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) Tom Torlakson to present new science standards, based on the NGSS, to the California State Board of Education (SBE), by July 31, 2013. The SBE had until November 30, 2013, to adopt, modify, or reject the proposed standards.

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  5. How were the NGSS developed?
    The development of the NGSS was a two-step process. The first step was the development of the Framework for K–12 Science Education External link opens in new window or tab. (Framework) by the National Research Council (NRC), the staff arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

    The Framework was a critical first step because it is grounded in the most current research on science and science learning and identified the science all kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) students should know. To undertake this effort, the NRC convened a committee of 18 individuals who are nationally and internationally known in their respective fields. The committee was composed of practicing scientists, including two Nobel laureates, cognitive scientists, science education researchers, and science education standards and policy experts. In addition, the NRC used four design teams to develop the Framework. These design teams, in physical science, life science, earth/space science, and engineering, developed the framework for their respective disciplinary area. A public draft was released in July of 2010. The NRC reviewed comments and considered all feedback prior to releasing the final Framework on July 19, 2011. Read more about the Framework online here External link opens in new window or tab..

    The second step was the development of the NGSS based on A K–12 Framework for Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas External link opens in new window or tab.. In a process managed by Achieve, Inc., states lead the development of K–12 science standards, rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally-bench marked science education. The NGSS is based on the Framework and will prepare students for college and careers. The NGSS was developed collaboratively with states and other stakeholders in science, science education, higher education and industry. Additional review and guidance was provided by advisory committees composed of nationally-recognized leaders in science and science education as well as business and industry. As part of the development process, the standards underwent multiple reviews from many stakeholders, including two public drafts, allowing all who have a stake in science education an opportunity to inform the development of the standards. This process produced a set of high quality, college- and career-ready K–12 Next Generation Science Standards ready for state adoption. The standards were completed in April 2013.

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  6. What are Crosscutting Concepts?
    Crosscutting Concepts help provide students with an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world.

    The Crosscutting Concepts in the NGSS are: Patterns; Cause and effect; Mechanism and explanation; Scale, proportion and quantity; Systems and system models; Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation; Structure and function; Stability and change.

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  7. What are Scientific and Engineering Practices?
    Scientific practices are the behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world. The NRC uses the term “practices” instead of a term such as “skills” to emphasize that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also knowledge that is specific to each practice. (NRC Framework, 2012, p. 30)

    The eight practices of science and engineering that the Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn and describes in detail are listed below:

    1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
    2. Developing and using models
    3. Planning and carrying out investigations
    4. Analyzing and interpreting data
    5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
    6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
    7. Engaging in argument from evidence
    8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

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  8. Who is Achieve, Inc.?
    Achieve, Inc. External link opens in new window or tab., the managing partner of the NGSS, is an independent, bipartisan, non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, that provides technical assistance to states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability.

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  9. How was California involved in the development of the NGSS?
    In September 2011, California was selected as a lead state partner in the development of the NGSS. As a lead state partner, California agreed to commit staff time to the initiative and, upon completion, give serious consideration to adopting the NGSS. Lead states guided the standards writing process, gathering and delivering feedback from state-level committees, and came together to address common issues and challenges.

    In November 2011, SSPI Torlakson convened a State Review Team (SRT) consisting of 80 science experts representing K–12 science teachers, administrators, county science consultants, college and university professors, scientists, science informal centers, and business and industry. Over a span of nearly 18 months, the SRT reviewed five public and private drafts of the NGSS and provided feedback to Achieve, Inc. and the CDE.

    In April 2013, after the final draft of the NGSS were released, SSPI Torlakson convened a Science Expert Panel (SEP), a smaller group representative of the SRT. The SEP met three times from April to June 2013, to review feedback from three regional public meetings and SRT surveys, and to make final recommendations for the California standards based on NGSS to the SSPI.

    The final recommendations include proposed learning progressions for Elementary (K–5), Middle (6–8), and High School (9–12) Science.

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  10. What was the adoption process?
    After a two year review process, Superintendent Torlakson presented the NGSS for adoption to the SBE on July 10, 2013. The SBE heard presentations from Phil Lafontaine, Director of the Professional Learning Support Division, Dr. Helen Quinn of Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and Chair of the Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K–12 Science Education Standards External link opens in new window or tab., Kathy DiRanna from WestEd, and numerous members of the public. The SBE chose to wait to vote on adoption of the NGSS for California until the September 4, 2013, meeting to allow teachers more time to review the proposed standards. The presentation of the NGSS for California, Item #2 on the agenda, can be found here.

    At the September 4, 2013, SBE meeting, the SBE heard presentations from the CDE, WestEd, and members of the public. The SBE voted unanimously to adopt the NGSS for California grades K–12. The adoption of the proposed learning progression for middle grades was not voted upon at this meeting to allow teachers additional time to review the SEP’s proposed arrangement of the standards for grades 6–8. The presentation of the NGSS for California, Item #10, can be found here.

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    Middle Grades Science

  11. Why did the SEP create an integrated approach to middle grades science?
    California is a kindergarten through grade 8 (K–8) instructional materials adoption state, mandating that standards be assigned to each grade level, K–8.

    In the 1998 California Science standards (PDF), each grade level 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.

    The NGSS, as released by Achieve, Inc., are in grade level for K–5, but grade span for middle grades (6–8) and high school (9–12). However, since California is a K–8 instructional materials adoption state, SSPI Torlakson was tasked with arranging the NGSS into specific grade levels for 6–8. He convened the SEP consisting of classroom science teachers, country office science specialists, higher education faculty, business, industry and informal science center representatives.

    The SEP was charged with (1) developing a learning progression for middle grades to define “science topics” students should learn at each grade level, and (2) facilitate the instructional materials development process by determining grade level placement of science topics.

    The SEP used the following criteria in determining a learning progression (or arrangement of the Performance Expectations) that would best serve middle grade students:

    The Performance Expectations (PEs) must:

    • Be arranged to provide a transition from elementary to high school
    • Align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) ELA and Math (are developmentally appropriate at each grade level)
    • Build within and across grade levels
    • Be balanced in complexity and quantity at each grade
    • Integrate engineering appropriately

    The SEP made a final recommendation for a learning progression for middle grades 6–8 science course of study to transition to high school.

    The result of this work, and the rationale for the proposed learning progressions for middle grades science (6–8) can be found here.

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  12. Will middle grades science teachers need a new credential to teach the proposed integrated learning progression for middle grades 6–8?
    Most middle grades science teachers will not need a new credential. Since middle grades science classes are considered ‘introductory’, most middle grades teachers will not need a new credential. The CDE and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) External link opens in new window or tab. have been working together to determine credentialing requirements for the proposed learning progressions for middle grades. The CDE and CTC created a guidance document to assist teachers, administrators, and districts to determine which authorizations are eligible to teach this proposed model. This guidance document can be viewed here (DOC).

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    Structure of the NGSS

  13. How are the NGSS for California different than the 1998 California Science Standards?
    The NGSS for California are different than current 1998 California Science Standards (PDF). The NGSS for California emphasize the importance of having a deep understanding of science concepts and engaging in scientific thinking. The proposed standards further acknowledge the importance of addressing big ideas and cross cutting concepts.

    The NGSS for California also emphasize:

    • The integration of science and engineering practices within the content
    • The integration of the Common Core State Standards for English language arts and Mathematics
    • The integration of skills and practices across the content areas as the foundation of STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.
    • Student understanding and use of scientific knowledge within and across science disciplines
    • Learning progressions that develop from K-12

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  14. How are the standards arranged?
    The NGSS for California includes Performance Expectations (PEs) in Life, Earth and Space, Physical Science and Engineering each year Kindergarten – Grade 8. High School PEs may be arranged as discipline specific or integrated courses. The NGSS for California can be viewed by grade level Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI): Life Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, and Physical Sciences or by grade level Topic (example: Chemical Reactions, Structure and Function, or Space Systems). DCI and Topic are two different ways of viewing the same PEs.

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  15. Why does the structure of the NGSS look so different than the previous California Science standards?
    The architecture of the NGSS is very different from the 1998 California Science Standards. The NGSS incorporates the three dimensions from the NRC Framework External link opens in new window or tab.: the Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.

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  16. How are the NGSS for California different than the NGSS national standards?
    The NGSS for California includes a few minor additions to some clarification statements, but no changes to the actual PEs. The SEP reviewed comments from the SRT and public feedback and decided to add a few terms to the clarification statements to better assist teachers with implementation of the NGSS for California.

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  17. How does the NGSS address students with special needs (English learners, students with disabilities, Gifted and Talented Education)?
    The writers of the NGSS developed numerous appendices to support teachers with implementation of the NGSS. Appendices A–M External link opens in new window or tab. were adopted by the SBE in addition to the NGSS for California grades K–12.  These appendices are to be used as guidance documents for local implementation and the development of the new California Science Framework.

    One of the supporting appendices, Appendix D – All Standards, All Students: Making the Next Generation Science Standards Accessible to All Students External link opens in new window or tab. includes strategies and vignettes for supporting diverse student learners including economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English language learners, girls, and Gifted and Talented students.

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  18. If California adopts an integrated arrangement of PEs for Grades 6-8, will it match what the rest of the country is doing?
    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 for middle grades, one-third of the states have an integrated approach, 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, unless states adopt the same middle school model. What does match are the PEs for the 6–8 grade span. By the end of grade eight, all students should have received instruction for mastery of the same science performance expectations.

    Achieve, Inc., has endorsed the California SEP’s learning progression for middle grades 6–8 and included it in Appendix K: Model Course Mapping in Middle and High School for the Next Generation Science Standards External link opens in new window or tab.. Other states are currently reviewing the California model for consideration for adoption in their state.

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    High School Arrangement

  19. How will high school courses be arranged?
    The high school standards in NGSS are written as grade span 9–12. In California, the design of high school courses, based on the NGSS, is a local decision. Districts may choose to use the SBE adopted Appendix K: Model Course Mapping in Middle and High School for the Next Generation Science Standards External link opens in new window or tab. for assistance when designing their high school courses.

    The SEP and SSPI Torlakson believe the use of these course maps will be helpful tools to ensure all students have access to high quality science education.  However, these model maps should not be considered limits. High schools should offer opportunities to all students to further their advanced study in areas of interest to them, including Honors, Advanced Placement (AP) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 

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    Background

  20. What are “curriculum frameworks”?
    Curriculum frameworks offer guidance for implementing content standards. Frameworks describe the curriculum and instruction necessary to help students achieve proficiency, and they specify the design of instructional materials and professional development. Further, they provide guidelines and selected research-based approaches for implementing instruction to ensure optimal benefits for all students, including those students with special learning needs (See California Education Code (EC) 60010(c); 60200–60207).

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  21. When will the new Frameworks for Science be available?
    Senate Bill 300 (2013) External link opens in new window or tab. requires the SBE to consider the adoption of a revised curriculum framework and evaluation criteria for instructional materials in science on or before January 31, 2016, and would require the revised curriculum framework to be based on the NGSS, and to include English language development strategies, as specified, and strategies to address the needs of pupils with disabilities.

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  22. When will new textbooks and instructional materials be available?
    After the SBE adopts a new Science Curriculum Framework, the review of publisher submitted Instructional Materials begins. New instructional materials for science should be available early 2018.

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    Assessments

  23. Will California students still take California Standards Tests for science during the 2013–2014 school year?
    Yes, per Assembly Bill 484 (2013) External link opens in new window or tab., California students will be assessed in grades five (for fourth and fifth grade science content), eight (eighth grade science content), and ten (Life science content). These assessments will be based on the 1998 California Science Standards (PDF).

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  24. When will there be new assessments for the NGSS?
    The earliest new science assessments might be available is the 2014–2015 school year. However, due to the short timeline, new science assessments will most likely not be available until the following school year.

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  25. Will Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) have science assessments for NGSS?
    At this time, new science assessments will likely be developed much like the assessments of SBAC External link opens in new window or tab.. However, it is still too early to know exactly how and when new science assessments will be administered.

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    In SSPI Torlakson’s report Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, Recommendation 4 encourages the development of new state science assessments consistent with the newly adopted NGSS for California, that include item types consistent with the SBAC assessments (e.g., short and extended constructed-response items and performance tasks).

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    Implementation

  26. When are schools expected to implement NGSS for California?
    Full implementation of NGSS for California is planned to occur over several years and in the context of a continuous learning process.

    The CDE has identified three phases of implementation. These phases: Awareness (2013–2015), Transition (2015–2016), and Implementation (2016–2017), are similar phases as described in the Common Core Systems Implementation Plan for California.

    • The Awareness Phase represents an introduction to the NGSS, the initial planning of systems implementation, and establishment of collaborations.
    • The Transition Phase is the concentration of building foundational resources, implementing needs assessments, establishing new professional learning opportunities, and expanding collaborations between all stakeholders.
    • The Implementation Phase expands the new professional learning support, fully aligns curriculum, instruction, and assessments, and effectively integrates these elements across the field.

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  27. Where is the implementation plan for NGSS in California?
    SSPI Torlakson will convene a Strategic Leadership Team to draft a framework of an implementation plan for NGSS in California. The plan will include a timeline for full implementation as well as a timeline for the development and adoption of the science frameworks and the development of new state and national academic performance assessments. The plan will also include implementation strategies, both short and long term, for local education agencies, including professional development.

    This team will be a consortium of 50 field colleagues selected by the SSPI and consists of representatives of research-based effective professional learning programs, Institutes of Higher Education, CTC, professional organizations for California public school teachers and administrators, Informal Science Programs, after-school programs, district and county offices, and business.

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  28. Can I start implementing the NGSS in my classroom now?
    Full implementation of the NGSS must be a thoughtful and deliberate process which, in turn, will take several years. While instructional materials and assessments are not yet available for the NGSS, local education agencies should begin working with their stakeholders (including teachers, parents, students, administrators, district administrators, local school board members, professional organizations, and community and business partners) as they begin to write their own implementation plans for the NGSS. 

    Teachers can start evaluating their assessment procedures of how they measure student understanding of not only content, but of the Crosscutting Concepts and Scientific and Engineering Practices External link opens in new window or tab.. Successful implementation of the NGSS will require students to demonstrate their understanding of how science works in new ways. Future assessments will require students to not only ‘know’ science concepts, but students must use their understanding to investigate the natural world through the practices of science inquiry or solve meaningful problems through the practices of engineering design.

    To learn more about the research behind the NGSS, stakeholders are encouraged to review the 2011 NRC report A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas External link opens in new window or tab..

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    Resources

  29. How can I learn more about the NGSS for California?
    The CDE, California Science Teachers Association (CSTA) External link opens in new window or tab., the National Science Teachers Association External link opens in new window or tab., the California Science Project External link opens in new window or tab., Achieve, Inc. External link opens in new window or tab., and the National Academy of Sciences External link opens in new window or tab. web sites include numerous resources for the NGSS.

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  30. Where do I send questions about the NGSS for California?
    You can e-mail your questions to NGSS@cde.ca.gov.

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  31. How do I sign up for the NGSS Listserv?
    You can join the NGSS electronic mailing list by sending a blank e-mail to join-ngss@mlist.cde.ca.gov.

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Questions: Stacey Shorey | SShorey@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-5505 
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