Transitioning SPS to NGSS

JOSHUA JORDAN, Springfield High School

Currently, Springfield High School is very limited in the earth and sustainability option provided to the nearly 1300 students. At the time of writing, this essay Freshman are taken a course titled "Science 9", this course is 36 weeks long and is divided into 18 weeks of chemistry and 18 weeks of physics. In this current model, there is no earth or sustainability curriculum. Sophomores take a 36-week course titled "Biology", this course has a short unit of earth science in the context of evolution. Students learn about the dating of fossils using rock layers. Juniors have several course options to choose from. Students earning a "B" or above in biology may choose to take chemistry and/or physics during their junior year. These course do not cover any content on earth or sustainability. Students that earn below a "B" (or that choose not to take chemistry or physics) have options that include a course called "Oregon Naturalist" and a course called "Environmental Science". Oregon Naturalist was developed and taught by a veteran teacher to gives students exposure to the geography, history, and biology of Oregon. This course has several units that discuss the formation, climate, and earth processes around the state of Oregon. There are approximately 6 units of this course a year taken by approximately 100-150 juniors and seniors every year. Environmental Science (taken by 60-100 juniors and seniors) is a course in transition. In its current form, the course is taught by a veteran teacher (who is also going to be attending this workshop) who covers a standard offering of environmental, sustainability, and earth science topics. I describe this course as in a transition because of the push at the district level to develop Career Technical pathways at the comprehensive high schools in our district. This affects Environmental Science because the newest pathway to be created is titled "resource management". What courses will be in this pathway and the topics taught is still under construction. The Environmental Science course that is currently taught is going to be the first course to be folded into the pathway. Stay tuned for changes to come.

This is a difficult question to answer as the three comprehensive high schools have only begun the transition in the past 12 months. For the most part changes in teaching is fairly limited. In September of 2017, our district committed approximately 12 hours of professional development spread out through the year to begin the transition to NGSS. As a function of aligning ourselves with the work being done in other content areas, we started by examining the performance expectations that would be taught in each of the core science courses. Teachers were apprehensive about moving forward with incorporating many of the 3-dimensional practices as there was concern regarding dramatic changes in the course sequence. Once the team agreed on the performance expectations of the freshman science offering the science leadership team created a transition timeline and collected a professional development resource from the NSTA national conference in Atlanta. Teachers are learning and trying techniques supporting NGSS but individually and not without continued concern. The Oregon state science test taken during the junior year has included some assessment items this year based on NGSS criteria but only on a trial base to gather data. Until the state test is fully reflecting NGSS criteria I fear teaching will remain unchanged.

Challenges for the district include time for PD to understand NGSS, access to quality materials, and the paradigm shift of instruction that includes engineering practices and crosscutting concepts. First, Time for PD has been requested and I trust that the leadership team will develop quality experiences that grow teachers understanding of NGSS. The true issue of time is around unforeseen hurdles and outspoken individuals that may need additional time to process the transition. This is my opportunity to develop my coaching techniques by facilitating meetings that allow voices to be heard but limiting the time that is taken away from expected outcomes. My role as a district coach will give me access to continue PD beyond the hours provided by the district but also assist in developing lesson plans, observing techniques and providing specific feedback, and analyzing the success of techniques using aligned assessments. Second, access to quality materials requires navigating two roadblocks. The first is developing aligned curriculum in each course to receive approval from the district to begin researching which text/materials/curriculum to be purchased by the district. The second is developing a staff confident to find, borrow and try lessons and units that others have developed. My role in overcoming this problem will be consistently suggesting and finding workshops (like this one) that have resources that I can share, try and coach the teachers to use. Third, avoiding the teaching it the way we have always been and expecting kids to successfully navigate the performance expectations of NGSS. I believe that this begins with developing some strong assessments that consistently measure students in at least 2 dimensions of NGSS. These assessments will help create a clearer picture of how instruction will need to change if we want all students to experience the NGSS as it is intended.

Downloadable version of this essay

Transitioning SPS to NGSS (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 187kB Jul9 18)