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NGSS Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the 2013 adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards for California (CA NGSS).
Background on the National NGSS
  1. What are academic content standards?
  2. What are the Next Generation Science Standards and how were they developed?
  3. Are the NGSS the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for science?
  4. What are Crosscutting Concepts?
  5. What are Scientific and Engineering Practices?
  6. Who is Achieve, Inc.?
  7. How was California involved in the development of the NGSS?
Middle Grades Science
  1. 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 adopted in 2013 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 do the NGSS support science learning for diverse students (English learners, students with disabilities, Gifted and Talented Education)?
Background
  1. What are “curriculum frameworks”?
  2. Why did the State Board of Education (SBE) adopt a new California Science Framework?
  3. Will new textbooks and instructional materials be available?
Assessments
  1. Will new science assessments be available?
Implementation
  1. When are schools expected to implement NGSS for California?

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.

  2. What are the Next Generation Science Standards and how were they developed?
    The development of the national 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 areas. 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 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.

  3. Are the NGSS the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for science?
    No. The CCSS include literacy components in science, but they do not include the content that are the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). However, the CA NGSS are aligned with the CCSS for English Language Arts, Adopted August 2010 (PDF) and the CCSS for Mathematics, Adopted August 2010 and Modified January 2013 (PDF). Within the CA NGSS are tables explaining the alignment with the CCSS.
  1. 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
  1. 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
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

    The History of the Adoption of NGSS for California began in 2011.

Middle Grades Science

  1. 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. In 2013, the CDE and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) External link opens in new window or tab. worked together to determine credentialing requirements for the proposed learning progressions for middle grades. The CDE and CTC created a guidance document (DOC) to assist teachers, administrators, and districts to determine which authorizations are eligible to teach this proposed model.

Structure of the NGSS

  1. 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 crosscutting 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

  2. How are the standards adopted in 2013 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.

  3. 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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  4. How are the NGSS for California different than the NGSS national standards?
    The NGSS for California include 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.

  5. How do the NGSS support science learning for diverse students (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 were used as guidance documents for local implementation and in 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. (PDF) includes strategies and vignettes for supporting diverse student learners including economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, English learners, girls, and Gifted and Talented students.

Background

  1. 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).

  2. Why did the State Board of Education (SBE) adopt a new California Science Framework?
    EC 60200.9 required the SBE to consider the adoption of a revised curriculum framework and evaluation criteria for instructional materials in science on or before January 31, 2017, and required a 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. In 2016, the California Science Framework was adopted by the SBE.

  3. Will new textbooks and instructional materials be available?
    New instructional materials for science were available in 2019.

Assessments

  1. Will new science assessments be available?
    Information and resources for California science assessments is available through the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System web page.

Implementation

  1. When are schools expected to implement NGSS for California?
    Full implementation of NGSS for California was planned to occur over several years and the SBE has been provided updates. For the most recent information, visit the CDE Implementation of the CA NGSS web page.


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Questions: Standards Implementation Support Office | stem@cde.ca.gov | 916-323-5847 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, May 7, 2019