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

November 1, 2020

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.

NGSS in the Classroom: What Early Implementer Science Instruction Looks Like

September 1, 2020

This 13th report in WestEd's evaluation of the K-8 Early Implementers Initiative for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provides an extensive response to the following question: What does NGSS teaching look like in the classroom? The report also briefly describes specific ways that teachers have advanced in their NGSS teaching over the years of the Initiative and how the Initiative prepared them for such teaching.The report draws most strongly from more than 50 classroom observations of, and interviews with, 24 teachers across six districts. It is also informed by multiple interviews with each district Project Director as well as results of an annual survey with high response rates from more than 500 K-8 science teachers.

Building Leadership Capacity to Improve Math Teaching and Learning: Lessons from the Math in Common Initiative

September 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has required educators to make a seismic shift to distance learning, first on an emergency basis early in the crisis, and now with some amount of pre-planning in fall 2020. Many educators are concerned that distance learning exacerbates students' inability to access and engage in high-quality math learning. Educators are particularly concerned about learning for the groups of students that, prior to the pandemic, were already performing less well than average on the state math achievement test: Black students, English learner students, and students with disabilities.Before COVID-19, there was already a growing awareness that school site leaders' instructional leadership could be critical for raising student achievement. The pandemic further highlighted the potential for targeted leadership development to improve math teaching and learning in California schools at a moment when achievement gaps could be widening.Findings from WestEd's evaluation of a seven-year initiative called Math in Common may offer some useful insights at this time. Math in Common was organized to support 10 California districts in effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) across grades K-8. A key part of the effort to improve math teaching and learning in these districts involved providing leadership development opportunities for many types of district and school leaders — from teacher leaders and instructional coaches to principals and district administrators — to help them understand and support the math content and instruction that teachers are expected to use.In this brief, we offer three recommendations for how educators in California and beyond should conceptualize new leadership development opportunities to support math improvement - during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. We offer these recommendations to a broad audience of educators, administrators, and policymakers concerned with building leaders' capacity for school improvement, including representatives from county offices of education, district central offices, the California Subject Matter Projects, the newly formed California Leadership academies, and leadership associations such as the Association for California School Administrators. To ground our recommendations, we begin with some brief background on the CCSS-M and the Math in Common initiative.

Strengthening the Data Use and Continuous Improvement Capacity of Teacher Preparation Programs

August 1, 2020

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 addresses how programs can expand their capacity to use data for continuous improvement through the following levers:Lever 1: Develop data sources that can inform improvement effortsLever 2: Delineate clear roles to support continuous improvementLever 3: Build an infrastructure for efficient data entry and analysisLever 4: Establish a culture of improvement through routines for data review and use

The NGEI Approach to Improving Teacher Preparation in the CSU Through a System of Supports

August 1, 2020

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 reviews the evolution of a system of support for NGEI campuses that included targeted grant requirements, coaching and technical assistance, and a learning community to help partnerships share problems of practice. The following levers supported NGEI campuses to undergo rapid transformation, while implementing reforms in systematic, sustainable, and context-specific ways:Lever 1: Balance grant requirements with flexibility and responsive supportLever 2: Customize technical assistance support to meet partnership needsLever 3: Embed opportunities for cross-networked learning and collaboration

Strengthening the Clinical Orientation of Teacher Preparation Programs

August 1, 2020

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 skillsLever 2: Select or create a rubric to assess candidate proficiency with prioritized skillsLever 3: Integrate and expand opportunities to practice prioritized skillsLever 4: Re-conceptualize clinical roles, selection, and supportLever 5: Define and implement processes to provide formative feedback to candidates on prioritized skills

Building Strong Partnerships to Improve Clinically Oriented Teacher Preparation

August 1, 2020

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 describes how participating CSU campuses and their partner school districts strengthened their relationships and developed strategic partnerships to establish the necessary foundations for high-quality, clinically oriented programming.This paper identifies four levers that can be operationalized in order to sustain strong partnerships between stakeholders:Lever 1: Create and operationalize a shared visionLever 2: Identify key rolesLever 3: Ensure space and time to collaborateLever 4: Share data to identify needs and monitor progress

Six Years of Scaling Up: Districtwide Implementations of the Next Generation Science Standards

August 1, 2020

Many educational initiatives are funded for only a couple of years. The California NGSS Early Implementers Initiative spanned an extraordinary six years, during which eight school districts worked toward districtwide implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which call for teachers to transform their instructional practice. This 12th report in our evaluation series for policymakers, school and district administrators, and professional learning specialists describes the Initiative's scale-up in its later years to reach all K-8 science teachers. Specifically, the report addresses the following questions:In contrast to focusing in Years 1-4 on developing Teacher Leaders, what strategies did districts use in Years 5-6 to reach all other K-8 teachers of science (called "expansion teachers" in this report)?What impacts has the Initiative had on expansion teachers?Which professional learning strategies have been most and least effective for influencing the practice of expansion teachers?What special attention was paid to providing administrators with professional learning to prompt their support of NGSS implementation?

The Future of California Science: A Story of Leadership, Collaboration, and Legacy

July 1, 2020

As leaders of the teams that implemented and evaluated a six-year statewide effort known as the California NGSS Early Implementers Initiative, the coauthors of this paper have had a front-row seat for implementation of the California NGSS since their adoption in 2013. Coauthor Kathy DiRanna was also strongly involved in the new collaborations formed among science organizations that will be described in this piece. We document this story to attempt to capture the spirit and strategies behind the remarkable collaboration that is bringing forward a new era in state science education practice. We hope this account informs and encourages educational leaders, policymakers, funders, and all who are doing the hard but crucial work of advancing the NGSS and the Common Core.

It’s About TIME: A Rigorous New Process for Selecting Instructional Materials for Science

June 1, 2020

California counties and school districts are implementing a critically needed change in how they evaluate science instructional materials before investing in local adoption. Past adoptions were often too superficial in nature, focusing on candidate materials' overall look and feel, use of graphical elements, and availability of ancillary materials while insufficiently attending to the substance of the materials for high-quality teaching and learning. In contrast, the California NGSS Toolkit for Instructional Materials Evaluation (hereafter referred to as TIME) process enables participants to use evidence-based measures to choose materials aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that meet their district's needs.This 11th report in the NGSS Early Implementers Initiative evaluation series is intended for school and district administrators, leaders of science professional learning, and state policymakers. It provides an overview of the full TIME process, including participants' perceptions, a detailed description of the statewide TIME trainings of 2018-19, and a vignette that illustrates a portion of the TIME process.

Building Capacity for Improving California Mathematics Teaching and Learning: How the Math in Common Districts Leveraged Three Types of Expertise

January 1, 2020

Imagine a school district administrator in the fictional California district of "Rosewood," who is concerned about her 5th grade students' proficiency in math. Fifth grade math achievement scores have been static in the district and teachers say that many 5th graders are struggling with multiplication, even though it was supposed to be introduced in 3rd grade through the California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CCSS-M). Rosewood's district math team has tried to address principals' and teachers' concerns with multiplication, but those efforts don't seem to be moving the needle for students. The Rosewood administrator is ready to dedicate more resources toward improving 5th grade student math learning, and wants to be efficient in seeking technical assistance (TA) to help solve this district challenge. How might this administrator go about identifying and obtaining relevant and appropriate technical assistance?Under California's funding structures, districts have autonomy to purchase technical assistance in prioritized need areas.1 That freedom can be both a blessing and curse, as there are thousands of consultants, nonprofits, and resources available in the multimillion-dollar technical assistance marketplace -- almost all of which promise to help districts solve their problems, but very few of which have been vetted by any authority.The 10 districts in the Math in Common (MiC) community of practice regularly faced the kind of scenario unfolding in Rosewood. That is, they often needed to seek out TA to help them address issues related to implementing the CCSS-M -- ranging from improving the alignment of their textbooks' lessons, to supporting better standards-aligned instruction for English learners, to reconfiguring teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) to help teachers effectively implement the standards. But unlike most California school districts, MiC participants received significant support on making TA decisions through MiC's community of practice. Their experience highlights a major issue in standards implementation across the state: Districts need to be thoughtful, and well supported, in identifying and accessing TA that will help them bring standards to life in their local contexts and ultimately improve student achievement.As MiC's evaluator, WestEd examined districts' experiences with standards implementation in a comprehensive series of formative and summative evaluation reports spanning 2013-2019. This brief summarizes our learning from these reports on the successes and challenges that districts encountered.

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

December 1, 2019

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.