Science Instructional Materials: What to Do Between Now and January 2019
By Wendy Hagan, David Tupper, and Peter A’Hearn
The time is finally here, that moment you have all been waiting for: the State of California is moving forward with the K-8 science instructional materials adoption process!!! The committee that assembled to review science instructional materials met the week of July 16th in Sacramento to deliberate and generate a report of their findings and the moment they finished, the Tweets started! Some publishers are self-identifying if they made it through the initial review. Did you catch that? Initial review.
Before you get too excited and make a decision about the single largest expenditure your district will make outside of payroll… wait just a bit longer - there’s still more to the process. [UPDATE: In November 2018, the State Board of Education took action to adopt program for K-8. Click for more information.]
The State’s Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) still has to convene in September to review the work of the committee, make some potential changes, and put forth recommendations to the State Board of Education. The State Board of Education will then review the recommendations and vote at their meeting in November.
But wait, there’s still more...
Because the state-level review is only a checklist against the state framework, there is no value judgment in the process. Therefore, districts need another level of scrutiny to see if materials align to their vision for materials that will support full NGSS implementation and to determine if materials truly meet the specific local needs of their teachers and students. This process also will need to include a review of instructional materials for 9-12. As a result...
County Office of Education (COE) teams will be trained in December on a toolkit called, CA NGSS TIME (Toolkit for Instructional Materials Evaluation). This toolkit is intended for districts to use to engage in a deeper, internal review of instructional materials. COE’s are likely to then begin training district teams in early 2019. This training is for K-12 and is taking the place of “Rollout 5.” [UPDATE: Click here for a Calendar of Available Training Events]
So what can teachers do during this transition period, before COE’s are ready to train a team in your district?
Inquire within your district to see if they have a demographic and priorities list for instructional materials (to support the needs of teachers and students) - something like this should have been generated for other instructional materials adoptions (like math and ELA). Consider how you can update this for science in light of specific needs that will arise with NGSS by:
- Discussing with your team some of the specific needs that have come to light for teachers that have been working to shift instruction.
- Use the Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials: Recommendations for Publishers, Reviewers, and Educators (the joint white paper from the science teachers associations of California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) and initiate some PLC time with your colleagues to consider those existing district priorities and the implications of instructional materials adequately supporting NGSS implementation - consider how this white paper informs your priorities to support the needs of your teachers and students.
Use the NGSS Alignment Claims: What Publishers are Saying, by Achieve, to further inform your priorities and develop a plan for communicating with publishers.
Once your team has identified priorities and has a plan for communicating with publishers, it’s time to begin inquiring about materials that may meet those needs. Here are some things you can do:
- Access the “Reports of Findings" from the State’s science instructional materials reviewers for publishers that your school or district is interested in adopting/utilizing. Use these reports to compare with the California Science Framework criteria (the first part of chapter 13) which can help facilitate the process and allow you to further evaluate and get a sense of the materials. This comparison may help you “narrow the field”.
- Visit publishers at the California Science Education Conference to check out what they are offering. Be ready to ask for evidence that their program components will fulfill the vision of your priorities for NGSS instruction and implementation.
- Request copies from publishers of their most recently published instructional materials so that your school and/or district can begin to see what they are offering and how these materials fit your priorities. Be aware that K-8 publishers will likely have required corrections after the state review process, so those updated materials will not be ready until late January 2019 at the earliest (to be precise, publishers have 60 days after the November State Board meeting to submit corrections to staff at the California Department of Education who then evaluate if all required corrections are made and whether or not additional corrections are required. Publishers can request extensions to this 60-day timeline).
Have a team from your district participate in the regional training that will be offered by your COE in 2019. Here is a list of Science leads at COE’s for you to contact if that’s helpful. We encourage you to sign up for their science list-serv/newsletter (if they have one) and to inquire when they will be offering CA NGSS TIME training.
We are all really excited to finally have these resources! That being said, it’s prudent to consider how other recent adoptions have gone and how you can take those lessons learned to inform this one (see quotes below). Remember, you will likely have these materials for the next 10-20 years — we encourage you to be thorough in your decision-making process!
For more information and links to additional materials, please visit our CA NGSS Instructional Materials page on the CSTA website.
Reflecting on the last adoption cycle 12 years ago, here are a few quotes that we would like to avoid hearing this time around:
- “We obviously can’t choose this one- it’s in landscape — a book has to be in portrait.”
- “This one has cute animals on the cover — kids like cute animals”
- “I don’t care how the book teaches science — I just need really long problem sets”
- “We should pick this one — it's most like our old book” (after a discussion about how nobody uses the old book)
- “This one has a lab I already do in it! We should choose this one.”
- “Oooh — the picture on the cover is textured!”
- “Are there enough worksheets?”
- “We are not allowed to be on the committee because we know too much.”
Wendy Hagan is a science teacher at Granada Hills Charter High School, CSTA's Region 3 Director, and co-chair of CSTA's NGSS committee. David Tupper a teacher on special assignment for the Lakeside Union School District, a project director in the California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, lecturer in the San Diego State University School of Teacher Education, and is co-chair of CSTA's NGSS Committee. Peter A'Hearn is a science education troubadour and is a life member of CSTA.