September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Buzzwords for 2012-2013

Posted: Monday, July 30th, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

NGSS, STEM, Standards, CCSS, Race to the Top, waivers, Common Core, Standards, Assessments, and SmarterBalance are all terms and phrases being batted around amongst education policy makers, teachers, administrators and the public over the past several months. As we prepare for the upcoming, 2012-13 school year, each of these terms will gain more significance in the lives and minds of teachers. As I have described in past columns, CSTA has been invited to the table for discussions involving all of these initiatives and your leadership team and staff has represented you at public comment meetings, work group meetings, task force gatherings, and legislative hearings. Fortunately (or Unfortunately), the frequency of these meetings and the importance of the terms and their associated impacts on science teaching are only going to increase this year. With that said, this will be the year for you to be involved in many of these initiatives.

The first opportunity that teachers have for providing input on these initiatives is in the area of assessment. At the present time, the California Department of Education’s (CDE) working group on the reauthorization of the Statewide Assessment System is meeting to develop recommendations on the future of assessment in California. Although the work group meetings where the public can voice opinions will be nearly completed by the time of this publication, there is still one powerful opportunity for science teachers to provide input. The CDE has opened an assessment survey at This survey is open to the general public and the results will provide data for the working group and the CDE when making recommendations on future assessment systems. As of July 20th, over 1100 people had already responded to the survey. If you’ve not already done so, please take a few minutes to provide their thoughts on assessment in California within in the next month.

Then, in late summer the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s STEM Task Force will meet to finalize a definition of STEM education. This definition will be utilized as the State moves forward in adopting standards, writing frameworks, and developing curriculum. Once the Task Force has finished its work and a definition has been approved, teachers will have guidelines for what STEM is and how it might be incorporated in their daily teaching.

In November, the next public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will be released. The public will have a short window of opportunity at that time to review the draft and provide a second round of feedback to the authors as they prepare the final version to be released in late 2012 or early 2013. The CDE will then hold at least two public hearings before the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) makes his recommendation to the State Board of Education about the standards for California public schools. In accordance with the enabling legislation, these recommended standards must be based on the NGSS. The State Board then has until July 31, 2013 to adopt, reject, or adopt with modifications the new science standards. Achieve, Inc will release a survey with the next NGSS draft and as teachers, it is vitally important that we take advantage of the opportunity to review the draft and provide feedback through the survey. The more input California science teachers give on the next draft, the more closely those final standards will reflect California teachers’ desires. To facilitate a better understanding of the NGSS, the program planning committee for the California Science Education Conference (October 19-21, 2012) has included NGSS information sessions throughout the conference program.

Throughout the remainder of 2012 and the spring of 2013, your schools will be taking steps to implement the California Common Core State Standards (CCCSS). Though nominally focused on Math and English Language Arts/ English Language Development, these CCCSS can and will have a huge impact on science instruction. The math practices identified in the CCCSS call for the use of mathematical models for developing solutions to real world problems and predicting outcomes. Under the Math CCCSS, students will be exposed to the content of algebra in middle school and expected to be able to use these tools for solving problems. Though still embroiled in some controversy, the inclusion of algebra in the middle schools will impact the kinds of mathematical reasoning that can be valuable for science teaching. The ELA CCCSS include specific language for technical reading and writing in science and history/social science. Many teachers have commented that at last we have common core standards for science because it is included in this section of the ELA CCCSS. Knowing how to read science and technical materials is important not only in our science classes, but also as a fundamental skill to be adequately prepared for college and careers. However, reading about science does not replace doing science. As science teachers, we need to be careful to continue to argue for science as an activity-based curriculum. This is one place where the STEM definitions that are to be developed in fall 2012 can be applied to teaching in spring 2013.

Finally, there will be several opportunities in the coming year to participate in leadership positions or legislative campaigns that will further the cause for science education. At the present time, the CDE is seeking people to serve on the framework development team for the English Language Arts curriculum frameworks. With the inclusion of science in the technical reading and writing portions of the CCCSS, it would be valuable to have at least one science-oriented teacher on that committee. If you are interested in serving in that capacity, please go directly to the CDE website and put forward your name as a candidate to be considered. When you do this, please contact CSTA or me through the comment section below so that we can assist you in this endeavor. The link to the CDE site is In 2013-14, CDE will also begin soliciting participation for the development of the math frameworks aligned with the CCCSS. Again, when that process begins, please consider volunteering as a voice for science to insure that expectations for math are aligned with the needs and desires of science teachers. Finally, there is a rumbling in Sacramento that we should not wait until 2015 to begin the process for writing the new Science Framework. If successful, this process could result in a restart to writing the Science Framework before 2015. If that happens, CSTA staff and your leadership team will need your assistance in making the case to legislators that this is an important endeavor.

It has been an active close to the 2011-12 school year. We have successfully retained the two years of science graduation requirement and we have legislation that calls for new science standards by July 2013. We still have lots to do and we need all of you to help make the next advances happen.

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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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.