September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

A Look Back at a Few Highlights of 2016

Posted: Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

The California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs is now a memory. A huge thanks to Jill Grace, 2016 Conference Chair, her planning committee, CSTA staff, volunteers, presenters, speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, and CSTA members who made this year’s conference a huge success. Heather Wygant, 2017 Conference Chair is working to set up our first planning meeting for next year’s conference in Sacramento, CA.

Not only is the annual California Science Education Conference a great way for the CSTA members to hear inspiring speakers and attend useful pedagogical workshops, it’s also an opportunity for the CSTA Board of Directors to interact more personally with the CSTA membership. These interactions give us insights into the concerns and questions you have about California Science education. While attending several workshops, I took note of responses from participants. Those workshops inspired what follows.

California’s New Science Curriculum Framework:  An Update and Review from the Experts – Presenters:  Matthew d’Alessio, Professor, CSU Northridge; Bryan Boyd, Lead Science Consultant, Instructional Resources Unit, California Department of Education; and Stephanie Gregson, Director, Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division, California Department of Education

As a member of the Science Curriculum Frameworks and Evaluation Criteria Committee (Science CFCC), a member of the CSTA NGSS Committee, and an 8th grade CA NGSS Early Implementer science teacher, I have spent many hours over the past two years reading and discussing the content of the Framework as well as attending Science Subject Matter Committee, Instructional Quality Commission (IQC), and State Board of Education (SBE) meetings commenting on behalf of the CSTA membership. On November 3, the SBE took action to adopt the new Science Curriculum Framework). The conference workshop was intended to inform the greater CA Science education community about the work that has been done as well as next steps. Overall, the information was well received by the several hundred people in attendance and all three presenters took questions from the audience at its conclusion.

Even with the adoption of the Framework on November 3, implementation of the document will continue. The 2017 CA NGSS Rollout Symposia #4 will focus on practical uses of the Framework and CSTA and its partners will work into the future to provide supplementary documents as our understanding of NGSS evolves. You can find the PowerPoint and handouts from this presentation at:

New Assessments on the California Next Generation Science Standards: What to Expect This Spring and BeyondPresenters – Jessica Barr, Educational Administration Division, California Department of Education, Scott Maderer, Educational Testing Service (ETS)

The purpose of the workshop was to update the audience on the progress that has been made over the past year toward developing the new statewide science assessment for California. CSTA has been involved every step of the way, communicating with the CDE Assessment Division and attending the SBE meetings when assessment, and factors that will affect assessment, are on the agenda. Specific agenda items and their topics are listed at the end of this article.

Implementation of the new California Science Test, now called CAST, will begin with a pilot test in Spring 2017.  All 5th and 8th graders will take the test. The High School Pilot Test will be given at all High Schools with each High School assigned a grade level at which to administer the exam. Training Tests will be available in early January 2017, the purpose of which is to familiarize students and teachers with the test format. An alternative test for special needs students is also in the works – the California Alternative Assessment (CAA).  

There are multiple ways for educators to get involved in the development of the new assessments:

  • Item Writing
  • Item Review
  • Data Review
  • Form Review  

For more information on CA Science Assessment:

Small Science Organizations, Networking and Issues – Presenter: Debra Bereki, Science Consultant -This meeting provides a platform for leaders of small science education organizations in California to network and discuss issues.

I attend this workshop each year in order to learn about the challenges and successes of our small organizations around the state and discover how CSTA can help by providing statewide services and representation. One of the main challenges participants mentioned this year was getting their services known to a wider audience. The New CSTA After School Specials membership benefit was something that many were unaware of and yet is a tool that has the potential to inform large audiences.  

After School Specials

  • Goal: Short, informative Professional Development Events  

Free to CSTA Members, $10 for non-members.

  • What You Need to Do: Decide on the location, the presenter, and the presentation
  • CSTA Membership Committee: Handles Advertising and Registration
  • To get started, contact: Lisa Hegdahl: or Mary Whaley:


Agenda items listed on the full meeting minutes from recent SBE agenda items that affect CA Science assessment:

March 9, 2016

  • Item 1: California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Recommendations for the Expansion of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System Assessments. (Video starts at 50:00)
  • Item 2:  California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: Approval of the Grades for Which the California Next Generation Science Standards Summative Assessments Will Be Administered. (Action Taken)  (Video starts at 1:36:40) (CSTA’s Response Letter)
  • Item 3: California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: Update on Program Activities, including, but not limited to, Smarter Balanced Assessments (Summative, Interim, and Digital Library Resources), Technology, Summative Assessment in Primary Languages Other than English, California Alternate Assessments, California Next Generation Science Standards Assessments, and Outreach Activities (No Action Taken) (Video starts at 3:20:11)

May 12, 2016

  • Item 7: California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: Approve California Alternate Assessment 2015–16 Student Score Report, Approve California Alternate Assessment Performance Level Descriptors, and Provide an Update on Program Activities Related to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System. (Action Taken) (Video starts at 1:09:20)
  • Item 8:  Every Student Succeeds Act: Request a Waiver Under Title I, Part A, Section 8401 to Waive Double Testing of Science Requirement. (Action Taken) (Video starts at 2:10) (CSTA’s Response Letter)

July 13, 2016

  • Item 01: California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress: Approve California Next Generation Science Standards Alternate Assessment Concept and Provide an Update on Program Activities Related to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress System. (Action Taken) (Video starts at 20:24) (CSTA’s Response Letter)

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of CSTA.

Leave a Reply


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.