September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

California Arrangement of Middle School Science Standards – Spurs Production of Rationale Document and Gatherings of Science Teachers

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

On June 28, 2013, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released his much awaited recommendation for new science standards for California schools. The proposed standards, entitled Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade 12, are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) released by Achieve on April 9, 2013. California made only a few minor changes to the clarifying statements in the performance expectations that make up the NGSS and arranged the performance expectations for grades 6-8 into specific grades. The decision to allocate the performance expectations to specific grades, rather than adopt them in a grade ban, was a simple one. California is a K-8 adoption state and as such requires specific standards for those grades.

As a part of their presentation to the State Board of Education on July 10, 2013, CDE and other guest speakers went through a detailed explanation of the care which was taken by the Science Expert Panel (SEP) to arrive at the final recommendation that is being proposed. However, due to the short time between the time the recommendation was posted and the board meeting, the State Board elected to defer making a decision to a future meeting. Their next meeting will be on September 4-5, 2013. The reason for choosing to defer a vote was in large part to allow teachers more time to evaluate the proposed standards. In order to aid teachers in their evaluation, the California Department of Education has produced a document for grades 6, 7, and 8 which articulates the criteria used by the SEP when arranging the standards, the reasoning behind the arrangement including storylines, and explanations of the articulations from elementary and into high school and for each discipline in grades 6, 7, and 8. The document is available on the CDE NGSS website.

The proposed arrangement of the middle school standards has started many conversations around the state and so far, two meetings to discuss the proposed arrangement have been planned in Southern California, and one in Northern California in Sacramento:

  • On August 7, CSTA member and middle school teacher Emily Williams is holding a gathering at the South Pasadena Middle School Library. This meeting on will provide information to middle grade science teachers about the arrangement of the performance expectations for grades 6, 7, and 8, and will provide an opportunity for collaborative discussion.  This meeting will also be a great opportunity to meet some science education leaders including Kathy DiRanna (CSTA member and the State-wide Director for WestEd’s K-12 Alliance, Kathy worked with the Science Expert Panel which helped place the NGSS standards at each grade), Nikki Chambers (CSTA member and teacher participant in the Science Expert Panel), Anthony Quan (CSTA member and LACOE STEM Consultant), and Jill Grace (CSTA Middle School Director and 7th grade science teacher). Click for more information and to RSVP for this meeting.
  • On August 22, Dean Gilbert (CSTA past president and SEP member) of the Orange County Department of Education will host a town hall style meeting that will include a Skype presentation with Dr. Helen Quinn, lead author of the Framework for K-12 Science Education  (and keynote presenter at the 2012 CSTA conference). For more information on that meeting, and to RSVP, please click here.
  • On Wednesday, August 28, CSTA and the Sacramento County Office of Education will hold an informational and discussion meeting on the middle school arrangement proposed. In attendance will be Rick Pomeroy of UC Davis School of Education (CSTA past president and SEP member), Glen Lusebrink (CSTA and SEP member) a teacher in the Woodland Joint Unified School District, Lisa Hegdahl, 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School and CSTA president-elect, and Phil Romig, Science Curriculum Specialist for the Sacramento County Office of Education. Click here for more information and to register.

Please review both the NGSS for California and the Middle School Arrangement rationale document before attending any of the above meetings. Both documents are available at


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.

Leave a Reply


State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

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

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.