About the HS Science Curriculum

Implementing NGSS in High School Science in SFUSD

San Francisco Unified School District is committed to a district-wide implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) through a core curriculum that positively impacts science learning for all students. The NGSS call for a shift in the way that science is taught, with an increased focus on the doing of science and engineering through making sense of rich phenomena and solving real-world problems. As students have increasing access to endless amounts of information, being good at science is no longer defined by a student’s ability to memorize science content. Instead, we are focused on their ability to identify patterns, ask questions, analyze and interpret data, argue from evidence, collaborate with other scientists, and communicate their understandings. ​

SFUSD has addressed these shifts by developing a Science Core Curriculum in partnership with SFUSD teachers and experts in the science education field. In designing for these shifts, the Core Curriculum aligns with SFUSD’s Vision 2025 and the expectations for student outcomes laid out in the Graduate Profile. Specifically, the curriculum engages students in taking on real-life tasks that use San Francisco as the classroom. Students are led to build mastery and personalize their learning in their approaches to the real-life tasks.

The HS Core Curriculum follows the 5E Instructional model, a student-centered, constructivist approach to science learning that identifies students prior knowledge and through a series of experiences, has them build new and robust understanding of the science concepts. At each stage of the 5E lesson sequence (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate), students draw upon and build their literacy skills and their science and engineering practices. The 5E is a research-based model that ensures that students are developing deep conceptual understanding of the science that will transfer to new situations over many years.

High School Science Core Curriculum Subject Areas

NGSS Biology

In this NGSS-based Biology course, students explore biological concepts that build comprehension around two driving questions:

  • What connections exist between Earth’s changing environment and the co-evolution of life?

  • How and in what ways do organisms, including humans, depend on and impact the environment?

Using the guidance of CA Science Framework’s High School 3-Course Model, NGSS-based Biology integrates Life Science with Earth and Space sciences performance expectations. Earth and Space sciences concepts are integrated in a strategic way, designed to deepen student understanding of life on Earth and the interactions between the biotic and abiotic systems. 

Principles of NGSS Physics (Grade 9) 

Using the guidance of CA Framework’s High School 3-Course Model, NGSS-based Physics for Ninth Grade includes Physical Science and Earth and Space sciences performance expectations integrated in a strategic way so students apply their knowledge of Physical Science concepts in the context of Earth and Space sciences. The Earth and Space sciences topics of plate tectonics and cosmology are embedded in this course, which taps into students’ prior knowledge of mathematical concepts such as unit conversion, the metric prefix system, scientific notation, significant figure rules, dimensional analysis, and algebraic rules of calculations. It introduces students to new concepts such as vector algebra, the inverse square law, and linear relationships.

NGSS Physics (Grades 10+)

Using the guidance of CA Framework’s High School 3-Course Model, NGSS-based Physics for 10th Grade and above includes Physical Science and Earth and Space sciences performance expectations integrated in a strategic way so students apply their knowledge of Physical Science concepts in the context of Earth and Space sciences. The Earth and Space sciences topics of plate tectonics and cosmology are embedded in this course. Advanced mathematical concepts are embedded into the curriculum. ​

NGSS Chemistry (Grades 10+)

Using the guidance of CA Framework’s High School 3-Course Model, NGSS-based Chemistry includes Physical Science and Earth and Space sciences performance expectations integrated in a strategic way so students apply their knowledge of Physical Science concepts in the context of Earth and Space sciences. The Earth and Space sciences topics of stars and climate change are embedded into this course. Developed using the 5E Instructional Model, the story of chemistry progresses from a microscopic to macroscopic understanding of the world around us. Starting with the atom and where elements come from, students progress to bonding, chemical reactions, and the energy changes connected to reactions. In spring, student learning is contextualized by using different climate change phenomena to learn about energy balance, albedo, gases, rates of reaction, equilibrium, solutions, and acids and bases. 

The curriculum for this course was developed by SFUSD.  More information can be found about the NGSS Chemistry course here. 

Other High School Science Courses

The SFUSD High School Science Core Curriculum includes Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligned courses that fulfill UC-D requirements. These courses are: NGSS Biology, NGSS Physics, Principles of NGSS Physics, NGSS Chemistry, and NGSS Chemistry Honors. Earth and Space Science and Engineering standards are part of each course. In addition to these core curriculum courses, high schools offer a variety of other elective, Advanced Placement, and Career Technical Education science courses. Please visit specific school websites on the SFUSD Schools page for more information about science course offerings.

High School Course Progressions

At each high school, all 9th grade students will take the same science course, either NGSS Biology or Principles of NGSS Physics.   No other science options are available at 9th grade.  The school-wide decision of the 9th grade science course determines the sequence of course options in grades 10-12. Academy, Galileo, June Jordan, Lincoln, Lowell, Mission, O’Connell, Wallenberg, and Washington offer Biology in the 9th grade. Balboa, Burton, Marshall, and SOTA offer Principles of NGSS Physics in 9th grade.

If students took NGSS Biology in 9th grade, they may take NGSS Chemistry, NGSS Physics, CTE, AP or other science courses in grades 10-12.  If students took Principles of NGSS Physics in 9th grade, they may take NGSS Chemistry, NGSS Biology, CTE, AP or other science courses in grades 10-12.

Depicts HS Course progression visually

This page was last updated on August 6, 2022