SACRAMENTO—California’s move to modern new science standards took another step forward as the State Board of Education approved a preferred model for middle grade learning progressions, which integrate science instruction, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) bring science instruction up to date, reflecting new understanding of not only knowledge and skills, but of how students learn best. NGSS emphasizes a deeper focus on understanding the cross-cutting concepts within and across scientific disciplines. These new standards integrate engineering practices with science practices to help students understand the workings of science and the natural world. NGSS will cut across various science disciplines and incorporate the Common Core State Standards in math and English language arts, so students will build and deepen their knowledge of science.
“This decision means that all students—from kindergarten through graduation— will have a smooth learning transition from grade to grade,” Torlakson said. “California’s economy and status rest in part on our leadership in science and technology, and these standards will help ensure our students will graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed outside our classrooms.”
The Board also requested the California Department of Education reconvene the Science Expert Panel to develop an alternative model of science instruction that is specific to each middle grade level. The Science Expert Panel was convened by Torlakson earlier this year to review the standards. It included kindergarten through grade twelve teachers, scientists, educators, business, industry representatives, and informal science educators.
California was a lead state in developing the standards, in a voluntary and transparent process over the last two years. California teachers, scientists, college professors, business and industry leaders, and educational experts all took part in an 80-member California NGSS review team that thoroughly examined the standards five times. The state’s previous standards were adopted 15 years ago.
Next, a Strategic Leadership Team will be appointed by Torlakson to develop a plan to implement the NGSS. This includes a timeline for implementation, adopting a science framework, developing student assessments, and strategies for school districts. Once the team completes its work, the strategic action plan will be presented to the State Board of Education for approval at a future meeting. For more information on the development of the NGSS, visit the California Department of Education’s Next Generation Science Standards Web page.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries are major components of California’s economy. A 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce study, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future (PDF),” found that over the past 10 years, growth in jobs involving STEM fields was three times greater than that of non-STEM occupations. The report also forecast that STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than others in the coming decade.
California is preparing to host its first annual STEM Symposium, set for November 18-19, 2013, at the Sacramento Convention Center. This symposium will highlight how quality STEM programs align with Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards and provide strategies and resources for program implementation. For more information, visit the 1st Annual California STEM Symposium 2013 Web site.
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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5206, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100