May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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 http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/ab250.asp. 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 http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/rl/cf/. 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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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.