In Spring of 2016, TUSD middle school science teachers began to dive deep into the NGSS in preparation for the following school year. We knew that we were about to begin transitioning and that it was going to be a daunting task, but many did not actually realize that the California Department of Education had already begun this process for us. The CA Science Framework developed by the CDE, not only provided instructional segments that grouped the Performance Expectations into a logical integrated approach, but provided narratives and vignettes to help teachers begin to understand the instructional shifts required to meet the requirements of the NGSS.
However, as I began to read the CA Framework for NGSS, I realized that this was a lot to absorb and difficult to process the way it was presented all in one file. I began simplifying what was presented in the CA Framework to chunk the information to make it more accessible to teachers.
The first products of this process were the storylines. These were adapted directly from the tables of information provided in the CDE NGSS Framework. I did add some color coding to help differentiate the standards and PEs that we were expected to teach in the 16-17 school year and those that we could wait on teaching until the 17-18 school year according to the TUSD transition plan timeline.
Although we were not required to teach all the standards in the 16-17 school year, I quickly realized that we must find a way to look at the end curriculum goal in order to use the research-based approach of backwards planning for curriculum design. Knowing that this was going to take many hours of working with the standards and professional development training for teachers, I began by just getting teachers and administrators to talk about the NGSS Storylines for middle school science as linked below.
6th Grade Integrated Storyline
7th Grade Integrated Storyline
8th Grade Integrated Storyline
This is where it all began. I was then asked by the teachers and principal of Columbus Tustin Middle School to help get teachers ready for this major transition during a planning day to prepare for the following year. I worked closely with the instructional coach at Columbus Tustin, Delia Racines, Ph.D., to figure out a plan to help teachers process the CA Framework and a strategy to begin sequencing the standards. The training went so well, that we were asked by Ed Services to provide this same professional development training to all of the teachers at every middle school in TUSD.
Thus far, the most important part of our transition has been that every teacher participated in this professional development training. It was imperative that they physically worked with and understood how we sequenced the standards so that they could read the sequences developed by the other sites. Each school site sequenced two units or "instructional segments" of the CA Framework and I worked throughout the summer months to digitize all of the information in preparation to share the work at the start of the 16-17 school year.
Cari Williams is a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) for the Tustin Unified School District in Southern California. She holds a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Cal State Fullerton and works on the side as a consultant writing science and STEAM curriculum and training teachers. After working for 12 years in the classroom as a middle school science and STEAM teacher, she transitioned into the role of Digital Learning Coach in 2013. In this role, Cari helped teachers innovate curriculum and shift pedagogies through the integration of educational technologies. Her most current work as a TOSA is focused on engineering design in robotics, computer science, and Makerspaces. She is an official VEX Robotics event partner hosting tournaments for teams from around Southern California as well as leading 28 robotics programs servicing over 100 teams in the Tustin Unified School District. Although her expertise has taken her deep into STEAM education, she remains passionate and engaged in helping teachers transition to the NGSS through participating as a Science Peer Review Panelist for Achieve and as a Professional Learning Facilitator for NSTA.