May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

CDE Reveals and State Board Approves California’s NGSS Summative Assessment Design Plan

Posted: Monday, March 14th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl and Jessica Sawko

After many months of collaboration with NGSS experts, assessment experts, other NGSS-adoption states, CSTA, science teachers, its testing contractor Educational Testing Service (ETS), and other stakeholders, the California Department of Education (CDE) presented its proposed design plan for the California Next Generation Science Standards General Summative Assessment. After approximately two hours of presentation and discussion, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the design plan – allowing the development process to proceed on schedule toward the target of operational assessments in 2018/2019. The full proposal can be accessed from the agenda posted on the State Board of Education website – look for Item 2. A summary of the plan is posted on the CSTA website at

Michelle Center, Director Assessment Development and Administration Division for (CDE) and ETS representatives Dr. Jim Pellegrino and Dr. Kathleen Scalise provided a thorough presentation (click here to view a video of the board presentation, click Item 2) to the State Board. California Science Teachers Association Executive Director, Jessica Sawko, and President, Lisa Hegdahl, represented the CSTA membership at this important meeting and provided public comment in support of the Plan.

Design Summary Table as presented by CDE on March 9, 2016. Table extracted from the item presentation file available at

Design Summary Table as presented by CDE on March 9, 2016. Table extracted from the item presentation file available at

During her presentation, Center pointed out the CA NGSS Assessment Design Goals which are to:

  • Emphasize importance of group-level results to promote improvements to teaching and learning. (The design plan calls for an assessment in three segments, A, B, and C: Segments A & B will contribute to both individual student and group scores; Segment C will contribute only to group scores).
  • Provide models of high quality, CA NGSS-aligned assessment items.
  • Create incentives for schools to provide science instruction in every grade, not just in tested grades. (For the 5th grade assessment, Segments A & B will assess 5th grade performance expectations (PEs), Segment C will assess PEs from K-5. The 8th grade assessment will assess PEs from the 6 – 8 grade span in all three segments. The high school assessment will assess PEs from the high school grade span in all three segments.)
  • Measure the range and depth of NGSS performance expectations by leveraging the state’s distinctly large student population.
  • Minimize testing time and costs. (The design plan calls for a 2 – 2.5 hour assessment)


And the CA NGSS Design Features:

  • Assessment design measures the range and depth of CA NGSS performance expectations (PEs) over a three year cycle.
  • Assessment items, generated by evidence-centered design based task models, will assess the three dimensions of NGSS. (Every item will assess a CA NGSS DCI and at least one of the other two CA NGSS dimensions: one SEP or one crosscutting concept (CCC). Wherever possible, all three dimensions will be assessed within a single item; however, leading NGSS experts agree that this will not always be practical.)
  • Design makes use of a diverse range of item types.
  • Both independent items as well as item sets are used.
  • This is a computer-based, two-stage adaptive assessment.
  • Uses partial matrix sampling of content
  • Group level feedback while ensuring individual student performance is measured fairly and comparably
  • Administered at grades five, eight and grade ten, eleven, or twelve.
  • The assessment is designed to be administered in two hours or less.

On March 10, 2016 Anthony Quan of the Los Angeles County Office of Education hosted a webinar on the NGSS assessment design plan. He invited CSTA’s executive director Jessica Sawko to participate in the webinar. This webinar has been archived and is available online.

A question and answer period following the CDE/ETS presentation of the assessment design plan revealed additional information which included:

  • This assessment plan does not include information about alternative assessments, however the funding for development of those assessments is included in the current contract with ETS.
  • The purpose of the 2017 Pilot Assessment will be to gather information on assessment items, not to generate scores. Grades other than those designated for assessment administration in the plan may also be asked to participate in the pilot.
  • Ultimately this summative assessment plan, while it does meet the requirements for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was developed to meet the needs of California students.
  • Information on how a high school student is progressing in science will be available the year they take the assessment whether it is in 10th, 11th, or 12th grade, however, the scores will be ‘banked’ and reported for ESSA purposes during the student’s senior year.

In a letter to the SBE, as well as during public comment, CSTA encouraged the SBE to approve the plan and offered further collaboration with the State Board, CDE, and ETS as the work to develop the new CA-NGSS Summative Assessments progresses and are ultimately implemented.

This is an exciting step forward in the implementation process. CSTA will keep its members up to date on information as it becomes available. It is only with the support of members that CSTA is able to maintain its work in NGSS implementation – we thank our members for their support. If you are not currently a member of CSTA, please consider joining today.

Lisa Hegdahl is president of CSTA and an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School. Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s executive director.

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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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