September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

(In)formal Partnerships: Building District Capacity for Supporting the Convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Vanessa Lujan

This is a critical and historic time for education – nationally and regionally. California districts, schools, and teachers are in the midst of implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and with the recent state adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), these players find themselves at a critical juncture where they must have a clear understanding on how to connect the two initiatives and communicate this connection to their stakeholders that include district leaders, principals, teachers, students, parents, and community. With a framework for the relations and convergences CCSS to NGSS (see Stage, et al., 2013), educators and leaders have a clearer sense of these connections. One of the unique opportunities of the common standards movement is the ability for states to develop a guiding framework. At the same time, one of the unique challenges is the ability for districts to further tailor the implementation.

Many schools and districts call upon Informal Science Institutions’ (ISI) science education expertise (including professional and curriculum developers) to provide support for their educators and students. At this important time, many of these ISIs are well positioned for this role as it relates to the convergence of CCSS and NGSS as they have long histories of working with K-12 school-based science leaders and educators to provide programs and support for teachers, students, schools, and districts (CILS, 2005). In addition, many ISIs have not only taken part in the development and refinement of these standards, but have established programs and materials for students and teachers that are founded upon the very principles from which these standards documents were created.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, a coordinated effort called BaySci is being led by the Lawrence Hall of Science, Exploratorium, and Inverness Research, where Informal Science Institutions, districts, schools, and teachers work to systematically enhance the quantity and quality of science teaching and learning. BaySci is aimed at improving the likelihood that every student in the greater Bay Area will encounter high quality science within a national and state context surrounding the implementation and convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

BaySci is:

  • A network of 8 partner school districts committed to improving elementary science education through the development and support for a district-wide science vision, distributed leadership, strategic and sustainable plans for science, and increasing the access to high-quality science teaching and learning across school districts.
  • A network of 78 individuals or “science champions” (teachers, administrators and other educators willing to champion science in their own settings) outside of BaySci partner districts supported through professional development summer leadership academies and academic year follow-up sessions.
  • A learning community for improving the capacity of ISIs to improve the support they provide to districts, schools, teachers, and students related to the convergence of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Despite the major improvement in the national policy environment supporting high quality science and STEM teaching and learning, science education experts expect that the Next Generation Science Standards will present even more of a challenge for our financially beleaguered school systems. Teachers will need more in depth conceptual knowledge of science and science pedagogy, as well as access to the time, space, and materials required to engage learners in the practices of science and engineering, math and literacy. BaySci provides what we call a “high quality improvement infrastructure” to districts at this critical time. BaySci provides districts with professional development, planning time, technical assistance, access to expertise, and opportunity for collaboration that are otherwise unavailable.



Syntheses of research regarding the improvement of science education in districts suggest several common features feed into a successful model:

  • Districts and schools must have instructional leadership and infrastructure (PD, quality materials and materials management, supportive policies, parent support, etc.) focused on science, and science instruction must be an obvious and explicit priority.
  • Rigorous standards are needed to guide a coherent system of curriculum, instruction, assessment, teacher preparation, and professional development. Instructional materials, other classroom experiences and field trips should provide students opportunities to learn science by engaging in the practices of science that approximate what scientists actually do.
  • Teachers need a strong knowledge base of science, science learning and science teaching to help them to apply a range of effective instructional strategies in a variety of contexts.
  • Professional development is needed to help teachers to learn science content and pedagogy, and to provide on-the-job support for implementation and reflection.
  • Student assessment and program evaluation must align to standards and materials, be an integral part of ongoing instruction, and be used iteratively to inform instructional and programmatic decisions.
  • Districts and schools must align policies to support science education. External/community resources should be strategically prioritized to achieve district science goals.

Currently, it is rare to find educational settings where even some of these features exist concurrently. With CCSS and NGSS, BaySci deliberately engineers its work to allow for the development and improvement of multiple parts of the support infrastructure throughout a school district. BaySci districts, leaders, and teachers work towards achieving the new national vision for science education, and we have found that the work of BaySci to-date has been an important source of support and improvement towards the convergence of NGSS and CCSS for participating districts and teachers.

BaySci is also grounded in the expanding body of research that confirms the important role ISIs play in building the capacity of teachers and school systems by providing professional learning experiences focused on strengthening science teaching and learning. Many districts nationwide rely on university, informal education or industry partners to provide professional development as critical leverage to help build and nurture their internal capacity for integrating science with other subjects, and for making science universally accessible, and engaging and important to learners. BaySci believes that ISIs can purposefully and systemically provide the focused expertise and leadership needed to support the work that lies ahead regarding the convergence of the Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards.

For more information on BaySci or becoming involved, please contact Vanessa Lujan, Ph.D., Program Director at You may also visit for more information on our partners, program, science education-related news, and resources.

Vanessa Lujan is the Project Director at BaySci, at the Lawrence Hall of Science. You can reach her at She was invited to contribute to CCS by CSTA member Valerie Joyner.


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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.