September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

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 Furthermore, “the SBE is eager to replace the outdated federally required science CST as soon as is feasible.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 (, 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:

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.