NGSS FAQs

What are the Next Gen 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

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 (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.

The second step was the development of the NGSS based on A K-12 Framework for Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. 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.

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
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 (9-2) Science.

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.

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 California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). However, the CA NGSS are aligned with the CCSS in English Language Arts and the CCSS for Mathematics (PDF). Within the CA NGSS are tables explaining the alignment with the CCSS. A pre-publication version of the CA NGSS can be found online on the NGSS for California Public Schools, K-12 Web page.

How are the NGSS 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.

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. (NRCFramework, 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

What are the 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.

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, 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 in the pre-publication version of the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve (CA NGSS) available online on the NGSS for California Public Schools, K-12 Web page.

Will SMMUSD adopt the integrated or discipline specific model for middle school?
Please note that our District has not yet selected which model, integrated or discipline specific, it will implement.

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) 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).

How does the NGSS address students with special needs (English learners, students with disabilities, advanced learners)?
The writers of the NGSS developed numerous appendices to support teachers with implementation of the NGSS. Appendices A-M 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 includes strategies and vignettes for supporting diverse student learners including economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, English language learners, girls, and Gifted and Talented students.

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 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).

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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