May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Governor Brown’s Education Plans

Posted: Saturday, January 1st, 2011

by Christine Bertrand

Governor Jerry Brown has named his appointments to the State Board of Education.  As was mentioned in this column last month, Governor Brown had the opportunity to appoint seven new members to the 11-member state board, and he has done so in record time.  The list includes former superintendent of public instruction Bill Honig, who served in that position from 1983 to 1993 and was appointed to the state board the last time Jerry Brown was governor, former superintendent of the Palm Springs Unified School District and the Long Beach Unified School District Carl Cohn, and California Teachers Association lobbyist Patricia Rucker, among others.  The complete list can be found here.

The governor’s ability to see many of his goals for education come to fruition will be largely determined by these new appointments.  At first glance, it would appear that the make-up of the state board differs greatly from the largely charter school-focused members who have populated the state board under Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And just what are the new governor’s goals for education?  On the upside, Governor Brown appears to recognize some of the problems our current education system has propagated, most particularly as it relates to assessments and, in a boost to science, the narrowing of the curriculum.  Specifically, Brown’s education platform suggests the state testing scheme needs an overhaul and proposes that:

  • tests should be reduced in scope and testing time, and results need to be provided to educators and parents more quickly
  • year-end tests should be supplemented by very short assessments during the school year, with the goal of helping teachers, students, and families know where they stand and what specific improvements are needed
  • tests should not measure factoids as much as understanding
  • state tests should be linked to college preparation and career readiness, but current tests were not designed to do this.

In addition, Governor Brown’s education platform promotes “a more balanced and creative school curriculum and would place “special emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).  The platform recognizes that

current federal and state policies encourage much more school time for basic math and language arts at the expense of other vital subjects.  California’s public schools need a broader vision of what constitutes an educated person.  I will create local and state initiatives to increase school focus on science, history and the humanities—without reducing needed attention to math and English.

(Governor Brown’s education plan can be found here:

There may be another bit of good news on the way for education: Reportedly, Governor Brown’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2011-12 does not include cuts to K-12 education.  There is speculation, however, that, in order to avoid further education cuts, the governor will seek a voter-approved extension of Governor Schwarzenegger’s earlier tax hikes which, if approved, would alleviate about one-third of the state’s budget shortfall.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office has indicated that without any increase in the state’s revenue, K-12 schools could lose over $2 billion, which is roughly four percent, in funding for the 2011-12 school year.

As well, Governor Brown has indicated he’d like to get next year’s budget approved within the first few months of his term, instead of having it drag out until October or November as has been the case in the last few years, so perhaps educators won’t be left to wonder for months, even into the next school year, what their budgets would be.

Keep updated on the Capitol goings-on by regularly checking California Classroom Science and the CSTA website (

Christine Bertrand is executive director of 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.

One Response

  1. […] “unintended consequence” of the California State University system since 2011, echoing Governor Brown’s  and the federal government’s  ideology that STEM fields will make California and the U.S. […]

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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:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.