Delay coming to science frameworks

Delay coming to science frameworks

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the state's history-social science standards are new. They are not. Only the frameworks for those standards, adopted in 1998, are being updated.

(Calif.) Even as a press event by the state superintendent last week focused attention on a handful of schools already teaching lessons based on new science standards, legislation was being crafted that would delay until 2017 development of the tools educators need to bring that new curriculum into all California classrooms.

SB 652, scheduled to be considered today by a key legislative panel, changes the date by which the California State Board of Education must adopt a new framework based on the Next Generation Science Standards – from Jan. 31, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2017.

While academic content standards such as NGSS lay out concepts and skills students should learn at each grade level, the curricular framework serves as a blueprint for delivering those standards and includes criteria for evaluating instructional materials aligned to the new content.

“The revision of the science framework is underway but development of the draft has required more time than originally projected,” a legislative analysis of the bill quotes its author, Democratic Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica, as saying.

The recession interrupted California’s prior schedule for systematically updating education standards when, facing one of its most severe budget crises, the Legislature in 2009 halted all standards and frameworks adoptions until the 2015-16 school year. Since that time, statutes have been amended piecemeal to require or authorize updates in certain subjects.   

Schools statewide are at varying stages in the implementation of new Common Core State Standards in English language arts and math, adopted in 2010 and rolled out in K-12 classrooms just within the last two years or so. The state and its schools are currently in the midst of the first full, official administration of new computer-aided assessments based on Common Core.

Education officials last fall picked up where they left off in 2009 on work to update and adopt the state’s history-social science frameworks for use starting this fall.

That schedule, like the Next Generation Science Standards framework timeline, has also been pushed back a year for many of the same reasons: A lack of money and time.

Both the SB 652 analysis and a report on the history-social science update to be discussed next week by the State Board of Education say extensive public input throughout the process has required more revisions than expected, lengthening original timelines.

Also, no additional funding has been allotted for either project, hampering the department’s ability to pay contracted specialists and writers helping with the work.

Legislation that would provide schools with an additional $1 billion for costs associated with implementing new standards is currently stalled in the Appropriations Committee’s suspense file.

The financial picture for school operations will become more clear when Gov. Jerry Brown releases his revised 2015-16 budget on May 14. State revenues are pouring in well above earlier predictions and K-12 education is likely to see as much as $3 billion in extra funding.

Meanwhile, schools are still expected to formulate plans for transitioning classroom instruction to meet both the new science standards as well as updated history-social science frameworks.

School leaders and teachers can look to a handful of “model” districts and two charter schools that, supported by a private grant, are early implementers of the new science curriculum.

It is likely that the state – as it did with Common Core – will develop a stable of existing, interim NGSS resources that can serve as temporary instructional materials until the official list can be adopted.

The current NGSS implementation plan calls for students to be tested on the new science standards in the 2018-19 school year. more