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New NGSS standards in CA mean changes for middle school teachers

posted Jun 30, 2013, 1:16 PM by Matthew d'Alessio   [ updated Jun 30, 2013, 1:35 PM ]
California has posted the first official draft of the statewide science standards based on NGSS. In addition to the familiar dimension, disciplinary core ideas in science (the 'key concepts' in life, physical, and Earth & space sciences), the biggest innovations of NGSS will be 1) the focus on science and engineering practices and 2) an attempt to tie things together with cross-cutting themes. We've already been gearing up to help teachers gain fuller appreciation for these second two dimenions.But there is one wrinkle in the new state version of the standards that means some middle school will need extra support with their science content. In the latest draft of the NGSS-CA, the grade-level themes of Earth (6th), Life (7th), and Physical (8th) from our old standards are blurred or erased. That means that a long-time 7th grade teacher who is an expert in life science may all of a sudden be responsible for teaching a lot more of the core ideas from physical and Earth science.

You can find the draft standards at this link, but I summarized the disciplinary topics in the grade-level tables below. Some higlights: 
  • The core of Earth science involving plate tectonics, formerly addressed in detail in 6th grade, moves to 7th grade while some of the fundamentals of biology including discussions of cells and simple genetics get moved down to 6th grade. 
  • But it's not a simple switch, as photosynthesis and energy in organisms stays in 7th grade while weather and climate remain a part of sixth grade. 
  • I feel that eighth grade remains the most focused on physical science, but even that teacher will find him or herself teaching about mutations, evolution, and the fossil record.  

In refining the middle school sequence, the expert panel wanted to ensure that the concepts were developmentally appropriate and build properly throughout the middle school grades, along with other issues like alignment to ELA and math standards (They explain the rationale on page 3 of this link). In the long term, I think this will work out well. But in the short term, this sequencing means that we have a lot of professional development to do in all three dimensions of the NGSS for middle school.


 
 6th Grade   NGSS-CACA-1998
 LifeCells

Genetics

Ecosystems
Physical 

Thermal Energy

Kinetic Molecular Theory

Heat flow 
 Earth & Space

Weather

Climate & Global Warming

Water Cycle 
 Plate tectonics

Earth surface processes

 Engineering

Define problems

Design solutions

Design tests to compare solutions

Evaluate test results

Iteratively improve design 
– 



 7th Grade   NGSS-CACA-1998
 Life

Photosynthesis / Energy in Organism

Ecosystems (energy flow, population dynamics, biodiversity)

Cells

Genetics

Evolution

Fossil Record

Structure & Function

Physical 

Atoms & Molecules

More kinetic Molecular Theory

Chemical Reactions (conservation of matter & energy)

Light

Levers

 Earth & Space

Plate Tectonics

Rock Cycle

Mitigation of Natural Hazards

Fossil Record

Geologic Time & Relative Dating

 Engineering

Define problems

Design solutions

Design tests to compare solutions

Evaluate test results

Iteratively improve design 
– 



 8th Grade   NGSS-CACA-1998
 Life

Mutations

Evolution & the Fossil Record

Natural Selection

Selective breeding / Genetic engineering

Ecosystems
Physical 

Newton’s laws, forces, & motion

Magnetic & Electric fields

Gravity

Kinetic & Potential Energy

Waves

Newton’s laws, forces, & motion

Atoms & Molecules

Periodic table

Kinetic Molecular Theory

Chemical Reactions

Density & Bouyancy

 Earth & Space

Solar System

Gravity & planetary motion

Geologic time (specifically relative dating)

Impact of population growth on Earth resources

Solar System

Stars

Engineering

Define problems

Design solutions

Design tests to compare solutions

Evaluate test results

Iteratively improve design 
– 

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