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 President for CSTA.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.