CA NGSS TIME: California’s Toolkit for Instructional Materials Evaluation
By Laura Henriques, Jo Topps, Maria Simani, and Marian Murphy-Shaw
California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013. The State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the California Curriculum Framework for Science in November 2016. Part of the CA Science Framework included guidelines for publishers (Chapter 13). In 2017-2018 publishers submitted K-8 instructional materials for consideration. (California is a K-8 adoption state, that means that the state reviews materials at the K-8 level to ensure they meet the criteria adopted by the SBE. High school materials must also be reviewed, but that is done locally.) The Instructional Quality Commission recommended and the SBE approved Instructional Materials Reviewers and Content Review Experts to review 34 submitted science programs. [FAQs related to submission of materials for review]
The Instructional Materials Reviewers and Content Review Experts reviewed programs to determine alignment to the SBE adopted criteria outlined in chapter 13 of the CA Science Framework. A list of the 29 approved and 5 non-approved programs is posted on the CDE’s website. This review is an initial review and does not make claims about the quality of the programs, rather it indicates that the programs have met the minimum stated guidelines indicated in the CA Science Framework and adopted by the SBE. Local education agencies can view the Report of Findings for each program on the California Department of Education website. The next step is for school districts to review materials.
The district level review is tasked with looking at the quality of the programs as opposed to the presence or absence of CA NGSS elements. Additionally, the district level review is looking for instructional materials that are a good fit for the learning needs of the students in their district. Something that works well for one district may not be as good a fit for another district - each district has unique needs and strengths.
As informed by Education Code, CCSESA (California County Superintendents Educational Services Association) is tasked with developing an instructional materials toolkit to assist districts with analyzing, piloting, and selecting curriculum. County Offices of Education get trained with the toolkit and then offer training to district teams in their service area. CCSESA tasked the California NGSS Collaborative to develop the science toolkit. (The CA NGSS Collaborative is a joint effort of science education interest groups in California to develop and deliver consistent support and messaging across the state. The Collaborative includes the California Department of Education, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, CCSESA, and the K-12 Alliance @WestEd. Together the Collaborative has developed and delivered the state-wide NGSS Rollouts which so many of you have attended.)
Starting with other NGSS evaluation tools, the collaborative developed a California toolkit called CA NGSS TIME (California NGSS Toolkit for Instructional Material Evaluation). CA NGSS TIME is intentionally different from previous toolkits. It embeds specific professional learning components so that team members become more knowledgeable about NGSS before they begin reviewing materials for potential adoption. CA NGSS TIME helps districts to 1) select materials that meet district needs, 2) allow for in-depth analysis of instructional materials to meet a range of NGSS-aligned criteria; 3) provide a plan for piloting and implementation, and 4) provide professional learning. All of this is done by reviewing programs to find evidence for making informed decisions. Part of the process includes documenting the data about the strengths and limitations of different programs. This enables the district teams to use evidence to argue for program adoption decisions. It also provides the district with information about future professional learning needs and possible supplements or augmentations needed for a selected program(s) (recognizing that no program is going to be a perfect fit, teachers, and districts will need to make tweaks to meet their needs).
CCSESA approved the CA NGSS TIME in November 2018. In December 2018 two three-day training workshops took place (one in Sacramento, one in Claremont) so that all County Partnership Science Teams could learn the CA NGSS TIME and begin planning their dissemination programs for their districts. (These two statewide trainings were supported by a grant from the S.D. Bechtel Foundation awarded to the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd.)
The importance of this work did not escape the CA NGSS Collaborative or the many partners up and down California. To ensure that County Offices of Education (COE) were not expected to do this without assistance, the funded proposal included support for every county to send a team of up to 5 people. In addition to county office science leads who will support their local teams, County Partnership Science Teams could include district-level coaches, TOSAs, teachers and principals, higher education faculty, CA Science Project Directors, and informal science center leaders. Many of the experienced session leaders from CA NGSS Rollouts 1-4 were also on these teams. The idea is to make sure there are enough people in every county, and across counties when needed, to provide the CA NGSS TIME learning opportunity which is so vital to California’s successful implementation of the CA NGSS TIME. After the training for COE Teams, the California Department of Education finalized the formatting of the CA NGSS TIME for widespread distribution.
What Does CA NGSS TIME Entail?
As you may have heard or can surmise from what is written above, CA NGSS TIME is not business as usual. The training for teams to become versed on CA NGSS TIME is three days long. (Different COEs are meeting this three-day requirement in different ways.) While this is different from past adoptions, it is the new norm for future adoptions in California. Moving forward, content area adoption processes will have toolkits which embed professional learning to help adoption teams make the most out of the process. Adoption of instructional materials doesn’t happen often. The adoption process and resulting purchases represent a major expenditure of funds and the decisions have instructional implications for years. It is worth the time and effort to do the process in an informed, thoughtful manner.
“We adopted what looked familiar to teachers in math and have been backtracking to clarify what Common Core math means since the adoption. The selection was a failure and costly. We don’t want the same for science.” An administrator commenting on the value of having the adoption team be trained in how to look for something different and how CA NGSS TIME can help the district make better choices.
There are six sections in the CA NGSS TIME process. Throughout the process, teams are looking for evidence within the instructional material about the quality of NGSS aligned features, a fit for the district, and eventually, usability and fit for the classroom (via the piloting). The chart below, taken from the Introduction to the CA NGSS TIME, describes the different sections.
Section 1: Develop District Lens. Preparing the team to evaluate instructional materials based on the district’s unique needs is an important part of the adoption process because it can assist adoption committees in selecting the best possible programs for their particular student population. Establishing a profile of the district’s needs and resources creates this lens. The District Lens can serve as a guide that will lead to an informed perspective regarding the needs of students and teachers in this adoption cycle.
Section 2: Prescreen. The Prescreen process narrows the field of programs to the most promising options. The Prescreen process does not provide a thorough vetting of resources and is not sufficient to support claims of being designed for the NGSS. Section 2 begins broadly in scope and moves toward a more targeted examination of CA NGSS alignment. The tasks in section 2 include a broad look at each program using guiding statements followed by a standards and evidence gathering activity to help districts determine which programs move forward in the adoption process. Prior to the activities in section 2, the district needs to obtain copies of instructional materials.
Section 3: Paper Screen. The Paper Screen process gives the adoption committee an opportunity to examine instructional materials prior to piloting programs. The whole committee conducts a deeper, more thorough investigation of each of the programs selected in section 2: Prescreen. An essential component of section 3: Paper Screen is for the adoption committee to engage in a shared professional learning experience and calibrate themselves using resources not under review. This essential component of section 3: Paper Screen should not be skipped. Using evidence and rubrics, this deeper dive leads districts through a process for determining which programs to pilot.
Section 4: Pilot Materials. The Pilot Materials process allows for analyzing instructional materials while using them in classrooms. The instructional materials used in this process are chosen based on section 3: Paper Screen. This gives a more thorough analysis of each program under review and allows for additional evidence to be used in section 5: Select and Recommend.
Section 5: Select and Recommend. The Select and Recommend process provides a decision-making framework to support the adoption committee in coming to a consensus about the instructional materials to be adopted. This uses evidence and data from sections 1–4 as support for selections.
Section 6: Implement. Provides tools to support planning and monitoring the implementation of adopted instructional materials.
The process of reviewing materials is to help districts find evidence within instructional materials that demonstrate alignment with the CA NGSS, California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts (EP&Cs), the instructional shifts of NGSS, and a fit with their own district’s needs. It is an in-depth look at materials so that teams make informed choices and can know how best to use the selected materials.
The process is one in which teams come to a consensus about the quality of the programs. The teams utilize the various rubrics in the Toolkit and the evidence they collect from the instructional materials to document and come to decisions. Teams need to participate in some practice using the rubrics and arguing from evidence to reach consensus before they start to review programs. The Toolkit provides that experience and calibration. As you’ll read below, your County Office of Education will have opportunities for your district team to learn how to implement the CA NGSS TIME to help you make good adoption decisions.
The district team should be tasked with selecting and recommending instructional materials, but also with developing a plan for implementing the program. You will note Section 6 of the CA NGSS TIME is about implementation.
The Paper Screen, section 3 of the Toolkit, has district teams looking at instructional programs with an eye towards what students learn (phenomena/problems, all three dimensions of CA NGSS, the EP&Cs, and logical sequence of learning), how students learn (the quality of providing powerful learning experiences that engage and change student thinking about phenomena/problems), how student progress is monitored (how are students assessed) and finally, how teachers are supported (how the program materials support teachers to facilitate student learning). Each pass through the instructional materials has the team looking for the presence of these features and evaluating the quality of what is found. This is all done through a lens of ‘what would high-quality materials look like that are designed for implementation of CA NGSS?’ This iterative process of review and reflection about the materials using different lenses allows district teams to become fine-tuned regarding high-quality instruction. This in-depth approach helps teachers avoid the pitfall of selecting materials that fall short of the high standards demanded for all science for all students.
On the surface, this seems like a big time commitment and lots of work. We would argue, however, that the investment of time and effort is well worth it. Not only will your district team learn more about your district, district needs, and the CA NGSS, your team will be better equipped to pilot, adopt, and implement materials that make the most sense for the district. The comment above by an administrator who lamented the poor decision made during a math adoption couples nicely with the comment below from a teacher who is on her county’s County Partnership NGSS TIME Training Team about feeling empowered to make good decisions.
Training & Timeline
Districts will need to identify the team to serve on the adoption committee. The team should include stakeholders across the grade bands and representative of the key constituents (students with special needs, English learners, GATE, etc.). At least one administrator should serve on the team. The importance of a team doing the work, as opposed to a curriculum leader or TOSA working in isolation, is the thoughtful discussions that can take place when reviewing and evaluating programs.
As noted above, the training for CA NGSS TIME is three days. Once district teams have been identified, they should determine when their County Office of Education is offering trainings. COEs, CDE, CCSESA, and the NGSS Collaborative all strongly encourage teams to participate in the COE three-day training, the CA NGSS TIME toolkit is designed to be used with training or facilitation. District teams must get trained by their COE team. There is learning that takes place during the training, and it is important for teams to participate in the full training of TIME, even if they are using it “off the shelf” without COE facilitation. The training will help you learn more about NGSS and quality instructional materials. Additionally, you will be faster and more efficient reviewing science programs under consideration because you will be familiar with the process and the rubrics.
For the first time as a teacher, I feel empowered to make the right decision about instructional materials that will be the best for students. A middle school science teacher who attended Sacramento CA NGSS TIME training.
To find out when County Offices of Education are offering their CA NGSS TIME training opportunities you can visit the CSTA Calendar of Events. Refine the search to only look for CA NGSS TIME events.
Frequently Asked Questions About CA NGSS TIME
Does my team need to have completed the CA NGSS TIME: California’s Toolkit for Instructional Materials Evaluation training prior to attending publishers’ fairs?
No, your team does not need to complete the CA NGSS TIME: California’s Toolkit for Instructional Materials Evaluation prior to attending the publisher fairs. However, completing the CA NGSS TIME training prior to attending the publisher fairs will give the team a lens through which to get a better overall sense of what is being offered by the publishers in terms of the design characteristics of instructional materials aligned with the CA NGSS. CA NGSS TIME provides rubrics that will help your team judge the presence and quality of phenomena, three dimensions, instructional coherence, EP&Cs, student work, assessment, support for teachers, and overall program features necessary to meet the shifts in the instructional materials required to implement the CA NGSS.
Is attending a publisher fair still important for the district team?
Yes, attending a publisher fair will allow the team to begin the pre-screen process, initiate contacts with the publishers, and get an overall sense of what is being offered by the publishers. A single look at the instructional materials, at a publisher fair, does not, of course, provide a thorough vetting of resources and is not sufficient to support claims of the being designed for the NGSS. It is a first step in a thorough process of adopting instructional materials.
What should the team be looking for?
Prior to attending a publisher fair, the team should have completed the “Develop a District Lens” section of the CA NGSS TIME. This process prepares the team to evaluate instructional materials based on the district’s unique needs. Establishing a profile of the district’s needs and resources creates this lens. The District Lens can serve as a guide that will lead to an informed perspective regarding the needs of students and teachers in this adoption cycle. Only then will the team be equipped to evaluate the presence and quality of phenomena, three dimensions, instructional coherence, EP&Cs, student work, assessment, support for teachers, and overall program features necessary to meet the shifts in instructional materials required to implement the CA NGSS.
Why is the CA NGSS TIME training three days long?
The CA NGSS, adopted by the SBE in 2013, are very different science standards than have ever been adopted in California. Phenomena-driven, three-dimensional instruction requires a new way to support instruction. In order to conduct a thorough examination and vetting of the instructional materials, your team needs to be calibrated on the features and components of the CA NGSS TIME rubrics. To be completely ready to examine, evaluate, and pilot instructional materials designed for the CA NGSS the preparation of the team is critical to an informed process.
It has been more than a decade between the adoption of CA NGSS and the previous standards. Significant shifts in all aspects of teaching have occurred at that time. Therefore it makes sense to include a professional learning component into the toolkit so that teams are aware and informed about those shifts as they begin the review process.
Who should be on the instructional review team for our school/district?
The instructional review team should consist of the stakeholder groups identified in your District Lens. Teachers who have completed the paper screen and pilot processes of the CA NGSS TIME are critical members of the review team. These members will have the deepest insight into the instructional materials. Teachers who have not participated in the paper screen and pilot processes of the CA NGSS TIME are also important to review team members, as the materials will need to stand alone once they are adopted and made available to all teachers in the district. Select review team members to correspond to the grade levels under consideration. If the district is adopting K-8 instructional materials, then the review team should consist of teachers from these grade levels, likewise, for high school adoption review teams.
COE CA NGSS TIME Training Calendar (more to be added as announced by COEs)
Laura Henriques is a Professor of Science Education at CSU Long Beach and a past-president of CSTA, Jo Topps is a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @WestEd,
Maria Simani is the Executive Director of the California Science Project
Marian Murphy-Shaw is the Student Services Director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director. All are members of CSTA.