May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Advocating for Access to Financial Support of Science in Your School and District

Posted: Friday, January 15th, 2016

revised 9/1/2016

by Jill Grace

Teachers, the moment is NOW for you to take action to influence how your district supports science education.

I often get inquiries by teachers as to how they can gain access to financial support as they transition to instruction in the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). This includes funding to attend professional learning opportunities (like the state-wide CA NGSS Roll Outs or CSTA’s California Science Education Conference which has a heavy CA NGSS emphasis) or sub-release time for teacher collaborative planning. The lack support in some districts and schools for these activities appears to be a “lost in translation” issue; many principals and district leaders are financially supporting these activities as they relate to English language arts and math, but not science. One of the reasons why we have a lengthy period of time leading to full implementation of the CA NGSS is to give teachers time to prepare: time to refresh on science concepts that are new at your grade-level and time to wrap your head around the shifts in instruction that the CA NGSS call for. The need for this time to prepare for the implementation of the CA NGSS is recognized at the state-level.

Dr. Michael Kirst, President, California State Board of Education

Dr. Michael Kirst, President, California State Board of Education

“We encourage local districts to begin implementation of the science standards now. The recently released draft of the new California NGSS curriculum framework can serve as an invaluable resource at all grade levels. We recognize the time required to build capacity among teachers and students for these new science standards,” said Mike Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education.

Trish Williams, member and NGSS Liaison on the California State Board of Education (SBE) added: “the State Board of Education knows that the NGSS represent a very different way of teaching from the 1998 California science standards, and knows that change takes time; teachers of science will need professional learning support from their district to explore and become comfortable teaching science with an NGSS three-dimensional approach.” Furthermore, “the SBE is eager to replace the outdated federally required science CST as soon as is feasible. We are closely examining the newly adopted federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to determine our various options for moving forward more quickly on the development of NGSS aligned assessments.”

Having that translate down at the local level is often where the challenge lies. If your district isn’t a part of a grant initiative (like an MSP or K-8 CA NGSS Early Implementers), how can you get what you need? Here are some things that can help with understanding the process.

First, the school funding and accountability landscape in California has changed from what it was just a couple years ago. California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), adopted by the State in 2013, represented a radical shift in how districts get funded. Instead of funding in dozens of separate categorical programs coming from the state, school funding goes directly to school districts.

Second, LCFF now gives a great deal of flexibility to district leadership (Superintendents and Boards) on how they may choose to spend their district funding to meet local capacity and needs while also addressing the new CA Eight State Priorities for education. In making those decisions, district leadership are expected to solicit input from all stakeholders (teachers, parents, community, etc.) to inform their plans and decisions about district programs, activities, and funding allocations.

In other words, teachers are a stakeholder group, having a say in how a district chooses to spend state-allocated funding for education.

Each district’s process for and input from stakeholder engagement, and the decisions made by the Superintendent and Board, have been documented in the district’s required Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) document for 2015-18. These can typically be found on the district’s website.

Trish Williams, Member and NGSS Liaison, California State Board of Education

Trish Williams, Member and NGSS Liaison, California State Board of Education

Third, one of the new CA eight state education priorities relates to implementation of CA academic standards. According to Trish Williams, member and NGSS Liaison on the California State Board of Education (SBE), “Priority 2 of the LCAP must address implementation of ALL academic standards adopted by the State Board (http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/lc/lcfffaq.asp#LCAP), not just Common Core ELA and Math. This expectation for State Priority 2 includes the CA NGSS, which was adopted by the SBE in 2013. Although districts will certainly vary in their approach to implementation planning for NGSS, one example of how such planning might show up in a district’s LCAP is a roll out plan for district wide teacher learning around NGSS, with activities and a timeline, along with an indication of the sources of district funding allocations to support this work.” Since as early as 2014, Trish Williams has been reminding us that science is a part of implementation of new state adopted standards and therefore state funding can be applied to science (see her March, 2014 EdSource article here).

So how can a teacher gain access to financial support for science professional learning?

Be a voice in your district.

Teachers are a critical voice in the LCAP planning process, make your voice heard in your district about your need for professional learning support for NGSS to be a critical component of your district’s LCAP. CSTA has worked at the state level to improve the communication about the scope of State Priority #2 – now the work falls to the local level and in your community where the decisions about what is included in your district’s LCAP is made.

For help in strengthening science education in a district LCAP, the Lawrence Hall of Science created this useful resource: the LCAP Toolkit for STEM Advocates. It is clear that teacher professional development including time for collaborative planning is necessary. In advocating for science teachers in California (and that includes elementary teachers), it is CSTA’s position that California LEAs should fund professional learning for science teachers, as they do for every subject identified in within the LCFF and LCAP. Professional learning should be offered by individuals qualified to provide professional learning in California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) and must be focused on the CA NGSS, not driven solely by instructional materials.

To see what other districts are up to, you can follow LCAP Watch and search for “Science,” “NGSS,” or “Next Generation Science Standards.” ABC, Torrance, Elk Grove, and Oakland are examples of informative plans to search for that represent varied district demographics.

LEAs are required to review and update their LCAPs in the spring of each year to be submitted to their County Office of Education by July 1. January would be the right timing for teachers of science in any district at any grade level to express their NGSS professional learning interests and needs to the LEA science supervisor and Superintendent to help ensure that sufficient funding is allocated for that purpose. Many times, your Principal can help you take the first steps, and if they don’t know, inquire about who the person is at the district-level can help you. It’s time to speak up in your school and district!

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

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

One Response

  1. Just published on 1/20/16 – this report will also provide “fodder” to your position that sustained professional learning is what is needed to help you, your school, your district, and your students succeed: http://edsource.org/2016/report-urges-sustained-teacher-training-to-improve-science-education/.

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LATEST POST

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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.