September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

District-Level Race to the Top to Focus on the Classroom, Provide Tools to Enhance Learning and Serve the Needs of Every Student

Posted: Monday, June 4th, 2012

2012 Competition Proposal Available for Public Comment Until June 8

The U.S. Department of Education announced today proposed criteria for the 2012 Race to the Top program—a nearly $400 million competition that invites school districts to create plans for individualized classroom instruction aimed at closing achievement gaps and preparing each student for college and career.

“Today, we’re taking the next step forward. We’re announcing a new Race-to the Top competition for school districts that is aimed squarely at the classroom level and the all-important relationship among teachers and students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“With this competition, we are inviting districts to show us how they can personalize education for a set of students in their schools. We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century,” Duncan said.

Race to the Top (RTT), launched in 2009, has inspired dramatic education reform nationwide, leading 46 states to pursue higher standards, data-driven decisions making, greater support for teachers, and turnaround interventions in persistently low-performing schools. The next phase proposes to build on those principles at the classroom level, supplying teachers with the strategies and tools they need to help every student learn at his or her own pace.

The proposed 2012 program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts serving at least 2,500 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. Districts will choose to apply for funding to support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a set of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects.

Eligibility, as outlined in the proposed criteria, will be determined by a district’s demonstrated commitment to RTT’s four core reform areas. Applicants from all districts will be invited to apply. The criteria has been designed to ensure no district is at a disadvantage—including those already participating in a RTT grant awarded through one of the first three phases, districts not currently participating, and rural districts. Awards will range from $15 million to $25 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan.

As proposed, applicants will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides classrooms and teachers with the resources to prepare students for college and career. Districts must effectively engage and collaborate with teachers, parents and outside organizations to create their plan and provide assistance to ensure a successful transition to proposed reforms. Plans will focus on transforming instruction so that it meets all students’ learning abilities. Teachers will track and receive real-time data and information that helps them adapt their lessons and individualize instruction to accommodate the differences among their students.

The Race to the Top district-level competition will encourage transformative change within schools, targeted toward leveraging, enhancing, and improving classroom practices and resources. School leaders will have the ability and flexibility to strategize how best to use time, staff the school, and manage the school budget.

Teachers will have resources inside and outside the classroom that help them build on their talent and offer tools and ideas to improve their day-to-day work. School staff will work collaboratively to grow each teacher’s instructional skillset by leveraging the support and skills of their colleagues. And all students will have equal access to high-quality learning materials inside and outside of class, be challenged to demonstrate learning before transitioning to new material, and know where he or she stands in a given subject based on performance data.

The proposal offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and enhance their ability to succeed.

To read or comment on the Race to the Top district-level proposal, visit http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition. Public Comment ends June 8. The Department plans to release the application in July with an October submission deadline. Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.