Next Generation Science Standards in California

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
California is one of 18 U.S. states that have adopted Next Generation Science Standards. Read on to learn about the standards for California and the state's plan for implementing them.

Next Generation Science Standards for California

California officially adopted the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013. After review by the California Science Expert Review Panel, the state added clarification statements to several of the standards and began the ongoing process of implementing NGSS and developing a system of corresponding assessments.

Understanding the Standards

The California NGSS provide a guide to the scientific knowledge and skills students should acquire each school year, beginning in kindergarten and continuing through high school. The California standards detail performance expectations, or what students should learn, for each grade level. They follow the three-tiered structure created by the developers of the NGSS at the national level, and focus on:

  • Disciplinary Core Ideas, or overarching science subjects, which are taught throughout K-12. These include life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering design.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices, which emphasize the practical application of disciplinary core ideas.
  • Crosscutting Concepts, which are broad-based scientific concepts that apply across all science subjects.

Where applicable, NGSS are linked to related concepts within the Common Core math and English language arts standards.

Differences Between National NGSS and California NGSS

Along with the clarification statements added to seven of the national standards, California also restructured the standards for middle school students. While the national NGSS outline a broad set of standards for middle school, California law requires teaching materials to be created for each middle school grade level. California NGSS, therefore, include grade-specific standards for sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Why NGSS for California?

At the national level, NGSS were developed in response to research showing that, in science, American students continue to lag behind those in other countries while, at the same time, science and engineering skills are increasingly important for high school graduates. In California, a state whose economy relies heavily on its science and engineering sectors, science standards for K - 12 students had not been updated since 1998.

Curriculum and the Implementation Process

California is in the process of revising the curriculum frameworks for all grades to reflect NGSS. The resulting instructional materials are expected to be adopted in 2017. Student assessments, based upon the California NGSS, are also in the process of development and the state anticipates administering those assessments for the first time in the 2018 - 2019 school year.

Resources for Teachers

Educators preparing for the NGSS may review the California standards, along with the current draft of the curriculum frameworks, on the California Department of Education website (

To review the NGSS disciplinary core ideas, and to begin formulating ideas for lesson plans that incorporate those, the science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts, offers a myriad of online courses that cover all these topics. Each course is broken down into chapters that zero in on specific topics, and each of those chapters features short lessons, allowing you to pick and choose those specific areas on which you'd like to focus. Check out some of the courses available:

Grade Level Course Examples
Elementary School Science for Kids
Middle School Physical Science: Middle School, Earth Science: Middle School, Life Science Middle School
High School High School Physical Science, Earth Science, High School Biology

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