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Science Standards

Click here for updated information about the Next Generation Science Standards for California.

New Science Standards for California in 2013

On September 4, 2013, the California State Board of Education adopted new science education standards, the Next Generation Science Standards for California. Still to be determined is the arrangement of the middle school standards. This issue will be taken up at the November 4 - 5 meeting of the State Board. Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards is still a few years away (2015/2016 at the earliest). An implementation plan, curriculum framework, curriculum, instructional materials, professional development for teachers, and assessments will need to be developed.


SB 300 (Hancock) was signed by Governor Brown in October, 2011. This bill requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to present to the State Board of Education recommended science content standards by March 30, 2013. The drafting of these recommended standards are to utilize the Next Generation Science Standards as the basis for deliberations and recommendations to the state board. The State Board must then adopt, reject, or modify the presented standards by July 30, 2013.

SB 1200 (Hancock) extended the timeline for the adoption of new science standards in California to later in 2013. The bill moved the deadlines of March 30, 2013 and July 30, 2013 outlined in SB 300 (see below) to July 31, 2013 and November 30, 2013, respectively. This extension of the timeline allows Achieve, the organization writing the NGSS, more time to incorporate changes based on the public and state-level feedback they received from their first drafts.

Once the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards are released, California will begin the process of developing new content standards based on the NGSS. CDE has prepared a timeline for the new science standards: California Timeline for New Science Standards Adoption (CDE resource).

California has been participating in the writing of the NGSS since the beginning and is one of 26 lead state partners in the development process. The following is a summary of activities that have taken place so far as well as those to come that was extracted from information provided to the State Board of Education at their March 2013 meeting:

To provide input [into the development of the NGSS] from California, the SSPI [State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson] commissioned the State Review Team (SRT), consisting of 80 science experts representing kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) science teachers, administrators, county science consultants, college and university professors, and business and industry. Facilitated by the CDE, the first meeting of the SRT was held on November 30, 2011, where members reviewed a sampling of draft science standards. The team was also given the opportunity to review the complete set of standards in February 2012, May 2012, October 2012, and January 2013. While the review process is confidential and the standards are still under review, the SRT generally agrees with the direction of the standards and that these standards will improve science education for our students.

Public drafts of the proposed NGSS were made available to the public for input twice during the development process. The first public draft was available for review and feedback for three weeks in May 2012, and the second public draft was available for three weeks in January 2013. During each public release, Achieve, Inc., released several supporting documents to provide additional information as to the background and organization of the standards. During these public releases, numerous members of the SRT, including classroom science teachers and county science consultants, facilitated group review sessions and submitted group feedback to Achieve, Inc.

The NGSS is scheduled to be completed in March 2013 [now the second week of April]. Should the NGSS not be released in time, the proposed timeline will need to be revised. Additional information is available on the NGSS Web site at http://www.nextgenscience.org/.

A few editorials and reports have been generated based on the second draft of the NGSS. The CDE, SBE, and SBE liaisons have been in communication with Achieve to address these issues.

Once the final draft of the NGSS is released, the CDE, with support of the CA CC of WestEd, will embark on a process to recommend the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve to the SBE. The process will encompass several steps involving the SRT and a panel of science experts who are representative of the SRT, referred to as the Science Expert Panel (SEP). Additionally, the process will allow for public comment at three Regional Public Forums. [emphasis added]

As a first step, in January 2013, the CDE, in collaboration with science specialists from the SRT and the CA CC, conducted a preliminary analysis of the alignment of California's existing science standards with the NGSS. The second public draft of the NGSS was utilized for the analysis. A final analysis will be conducted once the final draft of the NGSS is released.

Once the final draft is released, the CDE, with support from the CA CC, will conduct a survey of SRT members to seek input regarding the final draft of the NGSS and the working group analysis.

In March 2013, the SEP will convene to review: (a) the final draft of the NGSS; (b) the analysis of California standards to NGSS; and (c) survey input from members of
the full SRT. By the end of March 2013, the SEP will produce a first draft Science Content Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve for public review.

Regional Public Forums will be conducted in Northern, Southern, and Central California in late March and April 2013. [emphasis added] Exact locations and dates of the events are currently being scheduled. The public will be noticed once all logistics are confirmed. At these meetings, public stakeholders will receive background on the NGSS and the proposed California Science Standards. They will have an opportunity to provide input for consideration by the SEP. The CDE and CA CC staff will document public input and share it with the SEP.

As a final step, the SEP will reconvene to make any revisions based on public input and share a new draft of the California Science Standards with the SRT by early May 2013.
Once this group has conducted its final review, the SEP will incorporate revisions and submit this version to the SSPI, the CDE, and the SBE for consideration in July 2013.

1998 California Science Content Standards

The content standards for science were adopted in 1998 and are the foundation for the state's testing program. Link to California Science Content Standards.

A Brief History of the California Science Content Standards and the Outlook for Their Future*

Science teachers in California, particularly those newer to the profession, often wonder about our state science content standards—how they came about, who wrote them, and, most often, when they will be updated. There are no short answers, nor is there likely to be consensus on the answers, to the first two questions. As for the third question, the answer is: apparently never.

      To help put a context to our state’s science standards and how, if at all, they answer the “depth versus breadth” question, we thought we’d attempt to shed some light on the processes that brought them about and what teachers might look for in the future. CSTA was present and visible during the many months of development of the science standards and, as such, had a front row seat for all the machinations that resulted in the standards we have today. But so did innumerable other participants, and speaking to any one of them about the process will most assuredly present a different interpretation of events. However, all parties would most likely agree that the process was difficult and

more . . .

*As first appeared in the California Journal of Science Education, Fall 2009.