What Education Leaders Can Learn About NGSS Implementation: Highlights From the Early Implementers Initiative

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy;Science

What Education Leaders Can Learn About NGSS Implementation: Highlights From the Early Implementers Initiative

From 2014 through 2020, eight diverse school districts and two charter management organizations ran a substantial experiment with ways of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in elementary and middle grades, called the California K - 8 NGSS Early Implementers Initiative. The Initiative certainly illustrated that a big financial investment can produce powerful change. However, even districts facing resource challenges may benefit from the lessons that were learned and the strategies that were developed by the Initiative.

An external evaluation team has previously released a series of reports on what can be learned from the efforts of the Initiative districts. All reports are intended to be helpful to administrators at the school and district levels, education policymakers, and people charged with designing and/or delivering science professional learning. After briefly describing how the NGSS call for big shifts in science teaching and learning, this highlights report shares high-level, major learnings from the evaluation, distilled into only a couple dozen pages of main narrative. The report describes NGSS instruction as a powerful lever for equitable learning, explains how the Initiative made this kind of instruction happen, and describes the importance of the Initiative's ambitious professional learning for administrators.

November 2020

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California (Coachella Valley) / Palm Springs (Palm Springs Unified School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / Alameda County / Oakland (Oakland Unified School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / Fresno County (Kings Canyon Unified School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / Sacramento County (Galt Joint Union Elementary School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / San Diego County (Lakeside Union School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / San Diego County (Vista Unified School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / San Diego County / San Diego (San Diego Unified School District);North America / United States (Western) / California / San Joaquin County / Tracy (Tracy Unified School District)

Rural STEM Education: Promising Strategies from Several California Counties

Education and Literacy;Science

Rural STEM Education: Promising Strategies from Several California Counties

Since 2015, WestEd has provided research capabilities, technical assistance, and evaluation support for the California Partnership for Math and Science Education (the Partnership), a statewide initiative designed to increase access to high-quality math and science teaching and learning.

Through this ongoing work, WestEd has supported two communities of practice, one each for math and science, as well as work conducted by teams of education leaders collaborating to support math and science standards implementation and improve education and learning outcomes.

This brief provides information on rural education concerns that are found across the state of California and presents examples of rural California counties' strategies for supporting math and science standards implementation.

Key takeaways emerged from WestEd's study of this statewide initiative, chief among them that:

  • While distance means that many rural regions have significant barriers to meaningful collaboration, technology and targeted investments in face time offer improved opportunities for teamwork.
  • Some rural areas in California have been able to amplify their professional learning efforts by distributing leadership and responsibilities, and by thinking critically about ways that educators in different grade levels can learn from one another.
  • Many of the promising strategies highlighted in the brief can be adapted and replicated at relatively low cost.

December 2019

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California

Illustrating Improvement: Noteworthy Practices to Inform California’s Math and Science Standards Implementation

Education and Literacy;Science

Illustrating Improvement: Noteworthy Practices to Inform California’s Math and Science Standards Implementation

Since 2015, WestEd has provided research capabilities, technical assistance, and evaluation support for the California Partnership for Math and Science Education (the Partnership), a statewide initiative designed to increase access to high-quality math and science teaching and learning.

Through this ongoing work, WestEd has worked with the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA), the California Department of Education (CDE), and the California State Board of Education (SBE), to run communities of practices for regional teams of educators since 2016. Additionally, regional teams have received two rounds of grant funding to plan and pilot standards implementation initiatives.

These innovative micro-grants were designed to test the idea that local innovation could be stimulated with relatively modest investments. They offered teams an opportunity to collaborate deeply on regional and county needs related to standards implementation, fashion projects in response to local challenges, and continue to learn from and incorporate their learning to improve and sustain their efforts beyond the grant funding period.

This report shares information about select initiatives' current progress and strategies in order to create an opportunity for ongoing conversations about useful practices to support standards implementation. Specifically, the report focuses on a selection of noteworthy practices and tools crafted by project teams as they planned for and began to implement their second-year plans supported by the Partnership's improvement grants.

December 2019

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California

Developing Resources to Build Statewide Capacity and Cohesion for Mathematics and Science Standards Implementation

Education and Literacy;Science

Developing Resources to Build Statewide Capacity and Cohesion for Mathematics and Science Standards Implementation

Two resource development programs received funding as part of an initiative to help build capacity for mathematics and science standards implementation across California: The Fostering NGSS Implementation Program and the Fostering Math Standards Implementation Program.

The programs drew on a diverse body of expertise and cross-regional and organizational leadership to encourage the creation of math and science resources that could both address common standards implementation challenges found statewide and promote equitable math and science opportunities for all students.

This resulted in education leaders (e.g., county office of education, content specialists, coordinators, and non-profit representatives) working together in three teams for science resources, and one team for math.

This brief focuses on these four teams' experiences with planning, developing, and piloting resources aimed at reducing the variability in and building capacity for mathematics and science standards implementation across California.

It first examines aspirations and expectations for the resources, and perspectives on progress made toward aims. It then examines key processes and activities concerning leadership structures, planning and development, and piloting that teams engaged in to develop their products and attain their goals.

The brief concludes with key challenges and lessons learned, then provides a list of recommendations for funding or implementing further resource development efforts requiring statewide collaboration and scale.

December 2019

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California

Balancing Site Autonomy and District Priorities for Sustained Mathematics Progress: Three School Case Studies from the Math in Common Initiative

Education and Literacy;Employment and Labor

Balancing Site Autonomy and District Priorities for Sustained Mathematics Progress: Three School Case Studies from the Math in Common Initiative

From 2013–2018, the Math in Common (MiC) initiative supported 10 California school districts as they began implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The districts received funding as well as access to a community of practice (CoP) to explore and share improvement strategies for math instruction and systems change. Beginning in the 2018–19 school year, the CoP entered a second phase in which funding continued at a reduced rate for districts to sustain their work as a community.

To understand the reach of MiC districts' math improvement efforts, WestEd has been conducting teacher focus groups and principal interviews at schools in MiC districts for a series of case studies about implementing and sustaining district-level improvement efforts. Data collection is ongoing, but analysis of findings from our first set of conversations with teachers and principals have identified one common and compelling story about the ongoing challenges of education change in districts.

This report focuses on two districts facing significant internal and external forces that challenge coherent and sustained districtwide focus on mathematics improvement and explores how these forces impact educators at three different school sites in those districts.

Readers knowledgeable about the history of education change efforts will recognize the familiar tale of how difficult long-term improvement can be in decentralized district systems. At the same time, these examples offer hope that improvement work can persist from year to year even in challenging circumstances.

October 2019

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California / Alameda County / Oakland;North America / United States (Western) / California / San Diego County / Oceanside

Multiple Reflections: Comparison of Frameworks for Promoting Youth Learning and Healthy Development

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

Multiple Reflections: Comparison of Frameworks for Promoting Youth Learning and Healthy Development

The purpose of this paper is to compare recent frameworks and note their commonalities. This paper offers a summary or overview of many of these frameworks as well as resources to learn more. It also provides a Crosswalk Chart to learn where their critical features overlap.

August 2020

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California

Strengthening the Clinical Orientation of Teacher Preparation Programs

Education and Literacy;Employment and Labor

Strengthening the Clinical Orientation of Teacher Preparation Programs

Educators and policymakers across the United States recognize a growing urgency to improve the nation's systems of teacher preparation. Ensuring that teachers stay and thrive in the profession depends largely on having system-wide policies and practices in place that address teacher shortages, promote equity and excellence, and cultivate expertise, diversity, and more.

The California State University (CSU) system partnered with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to launch the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI), in an effort to transform the nature and quality of teacher preparation at both individual CSU campuses and across the CSU system as a whole. To answer the question, "What does it take to transform teacher education?" WestEd and SRI International conducted an evaluation to examine and share learnings about the CSU-led effort to implement large-scale clinically oriented teacher preparation reform.

As part of a series of new evaluation reports that explore key transformational elements of effective teacher preparation programs, this paper identifies key levers to put high-quality clinical experience—that is, the opportunity to practice the work of teaching in classrooms—at the center of teacher preparation. Findings in this report explore the following high-leverage strategies to strengthen the clinical orientation of teacher preparation programs:

Lever 1: Identify prioritized skills

Lever 2: Select or create a rubric to assess candidate proficiency with prioritized skills

Lever 3: Integrate and expand opportunities to practice prioritized skills

Lever 4: Re-conceptualize clinical roles, selection, and support

Lever 5: Define and implement processes to provide formative feedback to candidates on prioritized skills

August 2020

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Western) / California

Better Together Commission Findings Report 2019

Education and Literacy;Race and Ethnicity

Better Together Commission Findings Report 2019

The challenges experienced by Jackson Public Schools are not unique in that urban school districts across the country face dire circumstances related to school funding, poor student outcomes, dwindling student populations, and tense relationships with oversight bodies. However, the students, the people, and the communities in Jackson are unique in their culture, history, economic, and political experiences. The purpose of this report is to provide a review of the canvassing and field research project to assess the community perception of the Jackson Public School district.

Through a mixed approach of community canvassing and community conversations, we uncovered a comprehensive view from the perspective of community stakeholders on the status of the district. Among the most pressing concerns regarding the Jackson Public School District were teacher quality, district leadership, and test scores. These concerns were consistent across racial and age groups. Additionally, the report highlights the importance of early childhood learning, parent engagement, and a focus on college and career readiness.

January 2019

Geographic Focus: North America / United States (Southern) / Mississippi / Hinds County / Jackson

See More Reports

Go to IssueLab