September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

California State Board of Education Holds Off on Decision on NGSS Adoption

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Jessica Sawko

On July 10, 2013 the State Board of Education was presented with the proposed Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade 12. A full video archive of the presentation is available online and embedded here below. The online archive allows you to select Item 2 from the menu below the video window. (Please note that the board meeting was being serviced by a new AV provider and there were a few hiccups technologically during the presentation.)

The presentation led by Phil Lafontaine, director of the Professional Learning and Support Division of the California Department of Education (and CSTA member), provided the board with a quick review of how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed (this topic has been presented to them on several other occasions, so a quick rundown is all that was needed). This review was followed by an explanation of the process used by the Science Expert Panel (SEP) to develop the proposed recommendation. Jannelle Kubinec of WestEd addressed the management of the public input period and the results from those sessions, including educator support for the NGSS, and concerns over implementation and professional development. Phil Lafontaine and Kathy DiRanna (CSTA member) walked the board through the process used by the SEP to arrive at the middle school standards arrangement. Finally, Dr. Helen Quinn was on hand and provided the board information on the science and scientific reasoning behind the middle school arrangement. It was announced by Phil Lafontaine that Achieve had reviewed the proposed California model for middle school and had come to the conclusion to endorse the California model as well as request permission to share that model on their website.

Over 20 individuals addressed the board during the public comment period. Several businesses and business organizations testified in support, including Chevron, Boeing, and the Bay Area Council, recognizing that NGSS will provide a science education needed to fulfill their workforce needs. Other foundations and education organizations speaking in support of the standards included CSTA, the Samueli Foundation,  California Science Project, California STEM Learning Network, Children Now, California Charter School Association, The Education Trust – West, and UC Davis School of Education (among others). The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) stated that their membership was supportive of the Next Generation Science Standards, but wanted more time to evaluate the middle school arrangement as proposed. Classroom teachers Melissa Smith (middle school) and John Galisky (high school, CSTA member) also spoke in support of the proposed standards. By and large, all educators and education organizations making comments to the board emphasized how critical it will be for the implementation of these new standards to follow a carefully laid out plan that includes the proper sequencing of standards, curriculum framework, instructional materials, and assessment, as well as the crucial piece of proper and sufficient professional development and support for inservice teachers, especially for elementary and middle school teachers, and proper education for preservice teachers.

In the end, while board members Holaday and Williams regretted not making the decision to adopt the proposed standards today, the board deferred additional action on the matter until the September 4-5 board meeting. This decision was made to allow for time for information to be shared with teachers and the public about the proposed standards and more time to gather responses from those groups. In the coming weeks, CSTA will be distributing information to members about the standards proposal, including the reasoning behind the arrangement of the middle school standards, and invites members to provide feedback and input to CSTA.

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.

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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…

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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…

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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.