CDE Foundation Supports California School Leaders and Teachers to Implement the Next Generation Science Standards Creatively

What challenge is CDEF tackling?

Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation (CDEF) was founded in 2011 to collaborate with the California Department of Education and other education leaders to create, resource, and implement strategies that lead to a strong and valued public education system in the state. As one of its projects, CDEF leads The California Alliance for Next Generation Science Standards (CA4NGSS), working with over 60 partner organizations to collaborate and build knowledge for the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). CDEF’s commitment to coordinate CA4NGSS addresses one of the impediments to excellent STEM teaching: The number of testing and accountability systems that promote PK-12 STEM teacher creativity in the classroom.  

How is CDE addressing the need?

Since the standards encourage creative approaches to teaching science, being able to communicate about them with clarity and consistency ultimately assists in stronger implementation. As such, CA4NGSS recognizes the need for educators, principals, school board members, and other key education stakeholders to be able to talk about the standards in a way that will stimulate interest, align resources, and increase fidelity to implementing the standards as they were intended.  To support teachers, principals, and others in these efforts, CA4NGSS created the CA4NGSS Communications Toolkits. 

What materials are in the toolkits?

The CA4NGSS Communications Toolkits includes ready-to-use materials to introduce and communicate the intentions and value of the NGSS and to guide teachers, principals, and district leaders in their efforts to promote the standards among local stakeholders. The toolkits include materials specifically designed to address general audiences, site leaders, parents, and district leaders.

Top-Tier (most persuasive messages), Mid-Tier (strong supporting messages), and Bottom Tier (messages for framing conversations). For example, a Top-Tier message for educators to use emphasizes how kids like to learn science:

Students Like Learning This Way: California’s new state standards for science, called the Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS), embrace a young person’s innate curiosity by introducing science at an earlier age to all students, encouraging them to ask lots of questions and emphasizing hands-on investigation and discovery. This approach to teaching is more engaging and in line with what we know about how students learn best.

The toolkits also include a variety of communication materials about the NGSS that are appropriate for a variety of situations (e.g., school board meeting, presentations, professional development, etc.) and designed to reach diverse audiences. These include flyers, fact sheets, suggested social media content, talking points for educators to parents, planning tools for districts, action plans for communicating about the NGSS, PowerPoint presentations, brief videos, and a series of Webinars. The full suite of advocacy tools currently available includes 42 discrete materials, including a number translated to Spanish. The fully-customizable toolkits are available at:

How are the toolkits being used?

CA4NGSS disseminates the toolkits through the respective partner organizations’ events, conferences, and digital networks, including through professional development opportunities provided in collaboration with some of these partners. This alliance and a cadre of activists and advocates for NGSS have helped education leaders and teachers from PK-12 through higher education to understand and talk about the new standards and how they fit in across curricular disciplines. The toolkits have also helped districts to support and implement science standards in the classroom and to incorporate science education and learning into their local accountability and budget systems in ways that reflect the principles of NGSS.

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One key element of the toolkits that makes them significantly more useful for organizations is that all of the items are in Word format and can be customized to a specific context and target audience. Confidence in the quality of the materials has been essential to this feature. Because the concepts in it grew from a high-quality resource (i.e., Plagiarize this: A user-friendly guide to talking about college- and career-ready standards with just about anyone [] – which was fueled by 20 100Kin10 partners), were informed by additional survey data research, and were vetted by alliance members, individuals from all backgrounds can confidently shape the resource for their own needs. With this adaptive turnkey capability, it is easy for all kinds of interested parties to communicate about the NGSS without investing significant time and energy in crafting messages and communication materials. 

What did CDEF learn through developing the toolkits?

CDEF gathered anecdotal evidence about the toolkits’ usefulness, learning that individuals across the spectrum of formal education, informal education, industry, and institutes of higher education are using the toolkits and finding them impactful. However, moving forward, the Foundation would like to develop mechanisms for better tracking and sharing data regarding who is using their materials, for what purposes, in which formats and contexts, and with what results. Of particular interest is how to continue empowering educators with varying degrees of familiarity with NGSS and STEM to serve as more effective implementation advocates.

What’s next?

CDEF is now working with nationwide partners, including ACHIEVE, to help support communication and research skills among partners and across the field more broadly, with the goal of further amplifying the work. CDEF’s goal is to share the toolkits as widely as possible to enable easy adaptation of these materials for specific needs, contexts, and audiences. 

For more information about CDEF, CA4NGSS, and the toolkits, contact Jessica Howard, Program Director for STEAM Initiatives, at