Putting the Science CST into Perspective
By Caleb Cheung and Jill Grace
The implementation of new policies always requires time to understand how the changes link to the previous expectations, as well as time to deeply understand the new demands. In the case of California’s Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS), one such challenge is how much emphasis should be placed on the science California Standards Test (CST), a test that was implemented in 2004 (grade 5) and 2006 (grades 8 and 10) and is aligned to the state’s previous California state science standards, adopted in 1998.
The California State Board of Education (SBE) adopted the CA NGSS in 2013 and intentionally provided a long transition period so that students, teachers, schools, and districts could have adequate time to prepare for the required shifts. During this time, however, California must continue to administer the science CST to meet state and federal requirements (which are also in the process of changing). This problem will hopefully be resolved in the 2018-2019 school year when a new CA NGSS aligned assessment is scheduled to be released (for more information, go here). In the meantime, the challenge for schools and districts is finding the most appropriate way to frame and interpret the results of the science CST. Specifically, there is a need for appropriate communication for educating students, parents, teachers, and leaders about the CA NGSS transition and its relationship to the science CST.
Oakland Unified School District, one of the districts in the K-12 Alliance/WestEd California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative, provides an important example. At the beginning of the school year, they wanted to focus on transition and implementation of the CA NGSS, rather than the administration and outcomes of the science CST. The end result was a memo drafted by the science department on behalf of the Chief Academic Officer. Once approved, it was issued to all of the principals, teachers, and central office leaders.
District and regional leaders need to help their schools and communities make sense of the changes ahead. One strategy for doing this is to communicate frequently and clearly about the issues. Memos like the one from Oakland Unified provide clear expectations that help to reinforce both what is important and what is still to come.
At the January State Board of Education meeting, there was some discussion about the policy conflicts between the CA NGSS and the science CST. You can see the archived video of this here, check out Day 1 agenda item 1 and advance to 55 minute mark to see a discussion of what the SBE is learning about the new Every Student Succeeds Act (which replaces No Child Left Behind) and how it will impact science testing. You will also see discussion of their desire to replace the current science CST as it does not align with the CA NGSS. The California Science Teachers Association has been working with the SBE science liaison, Trish Williams, and SBE President, Mike Kirst on these issues and we will keep you posted as things progress!
Caleb Cheung is the Science Manager in the Oakland Unified School District, and can be reached at http://science.ousd.org. Jill Grace is the Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance/WestEd and is CSTA’s President-Elect.