New Science Standards! PTA General Assembly Meeting Summary, Part One

Thursday, October 08, 2015 11:16 PM | Jennifer Helton (Administrator)

We had exciting presentations at our at our SFPTA General Assembly meeting on September 26.   Jim Ryan, Executive Director of STEM for SFUSD, spoke about upcoming changes to SFUSD’s science curriculum.   Bryan Twarek, the SFUSD Computer Science Coordinator, briefed us on the new CS curriculum that is currently in development.

I’ll summarize what Jim had to say about science in this post, and then talk about the computer science curriculum in the next post.


Jim briefed us on the plan for implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in SFUSD.  These new standards, which were developed by a consortium of scientists and science teachers, were adopted by the state of California in the Fall of 2013.   The NGSS standards emphasize training students to think critically (in this case, to think like scientists and engineers) and place less emphasis on having students merely memorize facts.   

You can read more about the standards here, but the short summary is that they have three core dimensions:  Science and Engineering Practices (which Jim explained as “doing science”) Disciplinary Core Ideas (the “facts” of science) and Crosscutting Concepts (helping students understand core concepts which are shared across all scientific disciplines).  One of the exciting things about the new curriculum is that it has a strong emphasis on engineering (including robotics!) as well as the traditional science disciplines.  The links on this page go into detail about what will be taught, if you care to explore. 

The district expects to have NGSS fully implemented across all grade levels in 2017-2018.  The first statewide assessment of the new standards will take place in 2018-2019.  Research and development of the new curriculum has already begun.  Some implementation of the program is now rolling out in the middle and high schools; they will start working on materials for elementary schools next year.  A detailed implementation timeline can be seen on the Science Department’s blog.

One important takeaway for PTA folks is that the district now has a centralized Science Resource Center from which teachers can order Foss Kit and other science supplies.   I know at many schools, parents or PTA units are currently stocking the Foss Kits; that should no longer be necessary.  I once spent about a month counting syringes and magnets and odd bits of string in our school’s Foss Kits;  that was not my favorite PTA job.  It’s a relief to know that the district is now providing support for this.  The district also now has a lending library for microscopes and other equipment for teachers to use. 

In response to a parent’s question about field trips, Jim told us that the district has just gotten funding for a field trip program (including a field trip coordinator) to ensure that all students have the opportunity to use the amazing scientific resources of the City as a classroom. 

The Science Department has a very informative blog so that you can keep up with developments as they happen.  In addition, they have biweekly newsletters for which you can sign up, so that you can learn more about what is happening with science in the district.  You can also follow @SFUSD_Science on Twitter.  Keep informed!


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