May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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)

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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.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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