May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The State of Elementary Science Education in California

Posted: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

by Valerie Joyner

The results of the research report High Hopes – Few Opportunities will not come as a surprise to science educators in California. On October 25, 2011, in partnership with The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, SRI International, Belden Russonello & Stewart, Stone’s Throw Communications, and Inverness Research, The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd released the report on the state of science education in California’s elementary schools. The results of this 2010-2011 study included research surveys of California elementary and middle school teachers, principals, school district leaders, case studies, the results of previous public opinion surveys, and focus groups. While Californians maintain the belief that “high-quality science education” should be a top priority; the reality is that it is not.

The 2010 research survey A Priority for California’s Future: Science for Students found 86% of the respondents view science education as critical for California’s students. They further believe (70%) that science education should begin in elementary school in order to keep California and the United States in the forefront of technology and innovation. It is not only the public perception that science education is essential, but 92% and 95% of principals and teachers, respectively, believe the need to have quality science education is a high priority and that it should begin in kindergarten.

Despite public opinion and the opinions of California’s educators the fact remains that science does not exist as a priority in our schools. The study points out several challenges that keep science from being taught in our elementary classrooms; the emphasis on English Language Arts (ELA) and math, limited funds to purchase supplies, limited professional development opportunities, and lack of district support. Teachers point to the lack of time that can be devoted to science because of the state’s continued emphasis on ELA and math, and its associated testing to determine proficiency. As students move up in the grades they begin to spend more time learning science. The majority of kindergarten and first grade teachers report spending less than one hour per week on science instruction and experiences. Yet in fifth grade classrooms where science is tested, about 40% of classrooms spend 120+ minutes per week. The evidence suggests that a majority of our students spend less than one hour on science instruction per week.

About 90% of California’s elementary teachers report that they feel “very prepared” to teach ELA and math, yet only one-third feel they are “very prepared” to teach science. Add to that the feeling of teachers that they lack the background necessary for “high-quality” science instruction, including investigations and inquiry. Science related professional development is lacking and seldom supported by districts. If teachers are to present “high quality” science instruction where students are actively involved in the practices of science, they need strong district support and significant science initiatives.

The report concludes with recommendations that will assist with the development of science education as a priority in our elementary schools where students participate in meaningful investigations, experimentation, and scientific reasoning. These recommendations include providing teachers with district commitment, science expertise, resources, and building partnerships with industry, universities, and science institutions. Additionally, a recommendation was made to allocate the time necessary for science instruction by integrating science across the curriculum.

This is a very powerful study, one that should be used to influence our schools, administrators, and the California legislature. Read the full report at www.cftl.org/science and share it with your colleagues. Reform efforts always take time in education, but when we work together we can accomplish so much. Let us all work to change the title of this study from High Hopes – Few Opportunities, to High Hopes – Many Opportunities!

It is time to take action! Read and discuss High Hopes – Few Opportunities with parents, colleagues, your administration, and potential partners. Take time to share your thoughts, ideas, and implementation efforts with us. Let us all take a first step toward reforming science education!

Valerie Joyner is district science lead teacher for Petaluma City Schools and is the CSTA’s region 1 director.

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is a member of CSTA.

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  1. […] first identify it. CSTA Region I Director and second grade teacher, Valerie Joyner, discusses in her eCCS article this month, the recently released study High Hopes-Few Opportunities-The Status of Elementary Science […]

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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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

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.