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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the K-12 Alliance?

The K-12 Alliance is part of the STEM Unit at WestEd. It is a professional learning program whose mission is to improve science and mathematics teaching and learning through long-term professional development for teachers and other educators. The K-12 Alliance provides technical assistance to district, school, county, state, and nationally-based projects.

How can I be a part of the K-12 Alliance?

The most likely way for a teacher to be a part of the K-12 Alliance is to participate in a district or school based program where the K-12 Alliance is the professional development provider. Contact the Regional Director in your area for other ways to participate in K-12 Alliance programs.

How might a school or district fund participation in the K-12 Alliance?

Participation in the K-12 Alliance can be funded through grants from local, state and national sources. Fee for service programs are also available. Additionally, schools and districts can utilize the use of state Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to finance your school’s or district’s participation in the K-12 Alliance programs. To use the funds, the district must indicate the appropriation of funds for this purpose in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).

How did the K-12 Alliance begin?

The K-12 Alliance began as the California Science Implementation Network (CSIN) in 1987. A group of about 25 teacher-leaders from around the state banded together to improve science education. Led by Kathy DiRanna, K-12 Alliance's Statewide Director, the group designed and implemented a professional development program to build district leadership capacity for elementary science.The program was quite successful and expanded to include middle schools as the Science Partnerships for Articulation and Networking (SPAN) program. During these formative years, the high school science reform program, Scope Sequence and Coordination (SS&C) worked with 100 secondary schools to promote integrated/coordinated science. Their motto was "Every science, every student, every year."

All three programs collaborated with each other and formalized their relationship as the K-12 Alliance in 1997 to provide a cohesive and integral professional development program for K-12 teachers. At the request of schools and districts, the K-12 Alliance added mathematics education to its suite of professional development programs.

The K-12 Alliance continues to impact California’s schools through the implementation of Common Core State Standards-Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards.

What is the core content of the K-12 Alliance professional development programs?

The K-12 Alliance professional development program addresses content, pedagogy and leadership.

Adult level content instruction is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards.. Teams of instructional coaches and/or facilitators provide in-depth professional learning of the dimensions of NGSS (Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas) and in Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices and Content, in a variety of professional learning settings. Additionally, a science or math cadre, a team comprised of at least one university faculty member and classroom teacher, co-design and co-deliver the content. Cadre strategies include conceptual content and active learning.

Instructional strategies emphasize quality learning for all students, including inquiry, collaboration, and metacognition. The strategies include models for high quality learning experiences where the teacher is a facilitator for learning and assessment that reflects student understanding of concepts. The Teaching Learning Collaborative (TLC) is the K-12 Alliance lesson study model. The Assessment Centered Teaching Portfolio (Corwin, 2008) is the K-12 Alliance assessment model.

Professional development strategies for leadership include the "authentic work" of supporting potential leaders in a variety of leadership roles from facilitating meetings to presenting at institutes, districts professional learning opportunities and conferences. Technical assistance and support are provided to leaders through mentoring and coaching.

What is unique about the K-12 Alliance Teaching Learning Collaborative (TLC)?

The TLC is a type of lesson study. In a TLC lesson, all of the planning, teaching and debriefing is collaborative. The teachers work as a team to plan the lesson, then each teacher on the team teaches one portion of the lesson and finally, the teachers discuss the effectiveness of the lesson and what changes should be made before teaching it again. Teachers have commented that the process is one of the best means to improving their instructional practices.

What kinds of Professional Development services can K-12 Alliance provide?

The K-12 Alliance has a wide range of services that can be provided to leaders in a region, county, district or school. There is a large variety of professional development programs that cover Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core Mathematics and ELA Standards, literacy, inquiry, effective teaching strategies, leadership, etc. More importantly, our highly trained Regional Directors can tailor professional development activities to meet your district’s goals and teacher needs.

What is the research/literature base for the K-12 Alliance program?

The K-12 Alliance incorporates many of the effective strategies identified in Designing Professional Development for Teachers in Mathematics and Science (Loucks-Horsley et al., 2010) especially targeting lesson design based on appropriate content and its impact for student learning. The K-12 Alliance combines the most effective components of:

  • A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012)
  • How People Learn (Bransford, et al., 2000)
  • professional learning communities (Hord, 2004; Louis et al., 1999),
  • coaching and mentoring (Garmston and Wellman, 2008; Day 2015),
  • current pedagogical content knowledge specific to mathematics or science (Schulman, 1986)
  • student misconceptions (Driver, 1994)
  • lesson design (Bybee et al., 2006, Bybee 2014)
  • backwards planning (Wiggin and McTighe, 2011)
  • lesson study (Stigler, 2009: Lewis, 2002, 2014)

Who provides the Professional Development?

Several different groups provide professional development:

  • The Content Cadre, a team comprised of a at least one university faculty member and classroom teacher, provide the science or mathematics content professional development. Cadres attend professional development provided by the Regional Directors and content experts.
  • Staff Developers and Core Leadership Team Members, working in consort with the Regional Directors provide professional development that addresses pedagogy. Staff Developers and Core Leadership Team Members attend professional development provided by the Regional Directors and experts in pedagogical strategies (e.g., differentiated instruction, assessment, English Language Development).

What is a Staff Developer or Core Leadership Team Member?

A staff developer or Core Leadership Team Member is an identified teacher leader in a district. These teacher leaders attend K-12 Alliance leadership training twice a year (January and June). A teacher leader provides the district with on-site professional development and is a support for the classroom teachers participating in the K-12 Alliance program.

What content areas does K-12 Alliance address?

The K-12 Alliance provides content professional development in the Next Generation Science Standards, science disciplines and the strands for mathematics appropriate for teachers in K-12 settings. Strategies for integrating English Language Arts and English Language Development to build academic vocabulary and strengthen student understanding are embedded in the content professional development.

Does the K-12 Alliance have expertise with the Next Generation Science Standards?

K-12 Alliance was instrumental in the development and adoption of the NGSS standards in the state of California. Many members of the K-12 Alliance were involved in the California State Department of Education’s review team as the national NGSS were being developed by Achieve Inc. Phil Lafontaine,previously a K-12 Alliance Regional Director, led the statewide effort for the adoption of the NGSS. The Statewide Director, Kathy DiRanna and two Regional Directors, Jo Topps and Karen Cerwin were chosen by the California Department of Education to lead the Science Expert Panel’s deliberations on the NGSS for adoption by the California State School Board. The Statewide Director, Kathy DiRanna and Regional Director, Jill Grace served on the Science Leadership Team for the Next Generation Science Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California which was facilitated by Regional Directors, Karen Cerwin and Jo Topps. Additionally, K-12 Alliance Regional Directors Jo Topps and Susan Gomez-Zwiep along with 3 representatives (Dave Tupper, Lisa Hedgahl, and Caleb Cheung) from the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative participated in the development of the California NGSS Framework via the Curriculum Framework Content Committee. The K-12 Alliance continues to be instrumental in the leadership in California’s efforts to bring the NGSS to the state’s schools and districts.

How can the K-12 Alliance assist with the transition to the NGSS?

The K-12 Alliance can tailor a professional development program that meets your needs for implementing the NGSS. Using a needs analysis and through consultation with the district leadership the K-12 Alliance can provide professional learning to address the conceptual shifts required of the NGSS including phenomenon based three-dimensional instruction, student centered pedagogy, and site-based leadership.

What role has the K-12 Alliance played in California’s roll out of the Next Generation Science Standards?

K-12 Alliance is part of a state collaborative that represents the county offices of education, California Science Teacher Association, California Science Project and the CDE. The Collaborative has designed and implemented 2-day NGSS Statewide Roll Out Professional Learning Opportunities for districts for the past three years. 2017 features the California Science Framework in Roll Out #4 and it is the goal of the collaborative to continue to do roll outs over the years as all districts fully implement the NGSS. Regional Directors, Early Implementer Project Directors, Core Teacher Leaders and Teacher Leaders have written and presented many of the sessions at the Roll Outs.

What is the Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative?

The initiative is a partnership among K-12 Alliance@WestEd, the California Department of Education, Achieve, and eight school districts, and two charter management organizations who are engaged in digging deep into California Next Generation Science Standards as an effort to share and support high-quality science teaching and learning across California and other NGSS-adopted states. These partner districts and charters serve as a “lab” to selectively beta-test NGSS-aligned instructional materials, implementation tools, and performance assessment prototype items. Learnings from these districts will be shared statewide to advance high-quality science teaching and learning. Details available here

Who are your partners and affiliations?

Achieve Inc.


Biological Science Curriculum Studies (BSCS)

California County Superintendents Educational Services Assoc. (CCSESA)

California Department of Education

California Institute for Biodiversity

California Mathematics Council

California Math Project

California Science Project

California Science Teachers Association

California County Offices of Education

Institutes of Higher Education:

  • California State Universities (Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Pomona, San Bernardino, San Marcos, San Diego, Sonoma, Stanislaus)
  • University of California (Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside)
  • Community Colleges (College of the Desert, College of the Siskiyous, Fresno City College, Palomar College, Shasta College, Yuba Community College)
  • Private Universities (Stanford, University of the Pacific, William Jessup University)

Lawrence Hall of Science

Lawrence Livermore National Lab