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    Middle School Science Alignment to Next Generation Science Standards
    Posted on 01/27/2021

    Middle School Science Alignment to Next Generation Science Standards

    Seattle Public Schools is proud to lead the way in creating consistent, rigorous, and appropriate middle school programming for all our students as part of our commitment to racial equity. As shared in February 2020, we are aligning course offerings for middle schools and K-8 schools across the district to bring predictability to all our families and create common pathways to college and career.

    Part of this effort involves closely aligning all our middle school and K-8 science classes to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to offer foundational science learning and skill development vital to succeeding in later middle and high school science coursework. The NGSS are well-researched college and career readiness standards and adopted across Washington state. This approach gives students the opportunity to deeply study content, concepts, and practices, and enables students to hear a wide range of perspectives in their classes. Reports from SPS high school educators are that students who take high school level courses at the middle school level often end up needing extra support to succeed in advanced coursework at the high school level. Following this close alignment to NGSS will ensure students are learning critical scientific concepts and content and address the existing student learning gaps in our current model. We are confident this will move us toward more rigorous, consistent, and equitable science learning for all students while supporting our students of color furthest from educational justice.

    Starting in the 2021-22 school year, every SPS sixth and seventh grade student will be taught using the Board-approved Amplify Science curriculum, regardless of Highly Capable (HC) eligibility.

    Every SPS middle school will fully align all sixth and seventh grade science courses to the Next Generation Science Standards to engage deeply in foundational science learning. Washington Middle School teachers will also continue to use the Board-approved Amplify science curriculum in all sixth grade and seventh-grade science courses, in collaboration with Technology Access Foundation (TAF) staff using a project-based learning model.

    Students receiving Highly Capable services who will be in eighth grade in the 2021-22 school year will be the final group of students to take biology in middle school. In 2022-23, all eighth-grade students will take eighth grade science.

    We will, of course, continue to provide Highly Capable services according to student need and the state’s Revised Code of Washington. The current state law does not require an accelerated cohort model for science, and we believe that an integrated and inclusive classroom model, also known as the cluster group model, benefits all students. This may mean in some schools, students receiving Highly Capable services learn science in a classroom with their general education peers. Similar alignment work has been done with our social studies courses and have seen this shift lead to more successful learning experiences for all students.

    We are confident that this change will continue to support challenging learning experiences for all students. The Amplify Science curriculum is highly adaptive to student learning and teachers have the flexibility to add or modify content to create appropriate learning opportunities for all students.

    We have addressed some specific questions in our FAQ included below.

    Frequently Asked Questions (last updated January 27, 2021 – If you do not find the answer to your question here, please email it to the Advanced Learning at advlearn@seattleschools.org or the Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction Department at caiprogrammanagersmbx@seattleschools.org.)

    How will this affect middle school students’ access to high school credit-earning opportunities? What is the district’s strategy for ensuring students have adequate opportunities to earn the 24 credits required for graduation?

    Our review of existing course-taking, particularly in Science, reveals that this change will not prevent SPS students from being able to earn 24 credits and graduate on time. Available data indicate that many students who have taken high school-level science courses at the middle school level do not end up adding those courses to their high school transcript since they typically do not need the credits to graduate.

    The district is also looking to provide additional high school credit-bearing opportunities at the middle school level that will be accessible to all students. Specifically, we are exploring ways to provide eighth grade elective opportunities (e.g., 0-period) that are built on the district’s Ethnic Studies framework. In addition, the district is starting to offer open access, districtwide opportunities that will enable students to engage in high school credit-earning opportunities remotely. We are looking to make these districtwide high school courses available to interested middle school students so that they have another way to get a head start on high school credits. Finally, we are working on having all middle schools provide high school level world language courses at the eighth-grade level.

    What does instruction look like in an integrated and inclusive model?

    Instruction will continue to follow the phenomenon-based storyline model identified by NGSS. In this model students begin with a driving question. Throughout the unit students collect and make sense of evidence from lab investigations, readings and simulations that helps them to explain the answer to the driving question and figure out the phenomenon.

    What are the advantages of the integrated and inclusive model (i.e., cluster model)?

    The cluster group model is a method for providing highly capable services within an integrated classroom with all students purposely placed based on a balance of abilities, potential, or achievement. It is supported by many well-known experts in the field of highly capable education.

    • Research indicates cluster grouping raises everyone's achievement level (Gentry, 1999; Brulles, 2005).
    • Research has shown that students designated as highly capable in a cluster model performed significantly higher in mathematics, as an example, than highly capable students in a self-contained classroom (Brulles et al. 2010).
    • Teachers use research-based strategies that are rigorous for all students, not just the students needing highly capable services. Supports the professional development need for the highly capable classroom teacher to collaborate with colleagues who are using the same guaranteed and viable grade-level curriculum as the foundation of the course.
    • The cluster model supports teachers working together to plan effective delivery of curriculum and instruction.
    • Students feel more accepted and are more likely to choose more challenging tasks.

    How will this change affect students’ access to advanced learning coursework in science? What are the pathways for SPS students to access advanced science coursework in high school?

    As noted above, this full alignment to NGSS will better prepare students for advanced coursework. NGSS has a rigorous learning progression that prepares students with the foundation and underpinnings of knowledge and skills for continued progress in science. Skipping important middle school standards leaves gaps in learning. Reports from SPS high school educators are that students who take high school level courses at the middle school level often end up needing extra support to succeed in advanced coursework at the high school level. The current data on SPS students gaining access to advanced coursework in science reveals that we need to expand these opportunities for all students.

    The science pathway document provides an overview of how SPS students will be able to access advanced coursework in science regardless of Highly Capable (HC) eligibility. The plan is to ensure that there will be access to 2 years of advanced coursework in Science at our comprehensive high schools. The following articulates the specific course pathways for Science at the high school level for SPS students:

    • 9th Grade: Physics A (PHYS A) and Chemistry A (CHEM A)
    • 10th Grade: Biology A (BIO A) and Biology B (BIO B)
    • 11th Grade options:
      • Standard Pathway: Physics B (PHYS B) and Chemistry B (CHEM B) Advanced Pathway:
      • Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) with a balance by taking PHYS B or CHEM B
      • Alternative Pathway: Science Elective or Career and Technical Education

    Students will consult with their Science teacher after 10th grade to determine the specific pathway that meets their interests and needs.

    How will students access advanced coursework in Science starting in the 11th grade?

    Successful completion of the core curriculum of one year of Chem/Phys A and one year of Biology A/B.

    How will this change affect students’ ability to gain admissions in competitive colleges?

    Students will have access to up to two AP, IB, or CIHS credits. College admissions compare what students take against what courses are available to them – as a result, college admissions would not be impacted.

    What is the curriculum for these Middle School Science courses?

    The Amplify Science curriculum was developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley, that is a research-based, digitally enhanced curriculum. This curriculum includes interactive educational technologies as well as text-based and hands-on learning activities and assessments. Through this collaborative partnership, our science teachers use innovative, computer-assisted instruction to address the Next Generation Science Standards.

    What is the plan for 6th grade students who received some 7th grade units this year?

    The SPS science department will work collaboratively with educators and principals to prepare a sequence for these students for a seamless transition.

    How will we support this change without additional staffing?

    Teachers will embed enrichment and deeper learning opportunities within the content to ensure challenge and rigor.

    What support and professional development are you providing educators on differentiation?

    We will provide opportunities for science teachers to work collaboratively with advanced learning colleagues to develop tools and materials to provide differentiation and enrichment for our students requiring additional challenge.