September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Legislation and Science Learning in California: What’s going on?

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

The simple answer to the title question: a lot! In fact in conversations with colleagues about the future of California science education, the phrase “a perfect storm” has come up more than once. Depending on the time you’ve budgeted to tune in to policy and legislation activities you may be feeling the full force of the tempest, getting a little wind and drizzle out on the fringes, or sitting in the eye of the storm thinking all is calm.

As a long-standing institution supporting quality science education and the teachers who provide it, CSTA utilizes a number of methods to remain an ever-present voice regarding state educational policy and legislation.  For example, we often use CSTA’s policy and position papers when we attend public forums in order to inform parents, colleagues or local board members. These position/policy statements are intended to articulate what CSTA advocates for on behalf of each of you – our members and all the science educators of California. If you are not familiar with these, you might take a moment to see what is on the Policy and Position Statements webpage:

That said, the versions you see there now will be changing soon – that perfect storm, as noted in last month’s CCS by past-president Rick Pomeroy, is stirring up just about everything related to science education

CSTA continues to advocate for improved, up-to-date and instructionally effective standards, curriculum and instruction – and the NGSS, along with Common Core State Standards, have arrived. The need for public and procedural review as advocated by CSTA remains ongoing, which is why CSTA has made the state NGSS review process available to you from the first draft last year through last month’s State Board of Education materials. For California, the next steps will be the development of frameworks and curriculum assuming full adoption of NGSS this fall. CSTA is tracking legislation related to these topics to ensure the voice of science educators is part of the process.

Additional policy and position statements by CSTA address assessment, accountability, teacher recruitment, teacher preparation, and ongoing professional learning – all of which are also changing rapidly. Your CSTA board and staff members use these to guide our efforts in support or opposition to proposed legislation as appropriate. Below are few specific bills we’re following, and you might also like to follow by going to the California legislative Information: Bill Search site at

What else can you do?

  • Follow the link to the NGSS document that’s been recommended to the California State Department of Education and read over the content and the instructionally effective design of the learning progressions, as well the national K-12 Framework for Science Education.
  • Become involved in the science framework and curriculum work when the state begins their development.
  • Help us increase CSTA membership  – join or encourage a colleague to join so when CSTA speaks at meetings we are able to represent a majority of teachers in the state as members  – at present that is not case.
  • Contact your CSTA Regional Director to share your perspective or to request more information about NGSS.

In the meantime know that CSTA continues to represent quality science education and you.


Bill/Author:  SB 300/Hancock 

CSTA Status:  CSTA Support

Summary:  Waiting for Appropriations Committee action, has passed other committees with near unanimous support. Existing law prohibits the State Board of Education from adopting instructional materials until the 2015–2016 school year. This bill would require the state board to consider the adoption of a revised curriculum framework and evaluation criteria for instructional materials in science on or before November 30, 2015, and would require the revised curriculum framework to be based on specified science content standards (the new CA science standards – pending action by the State Board of Education).

Bill/Author:  AB 484/Bonilla

CSTA Status:  CSTA watch list

Summary:  Currently approved by the Education Committee and moved on to Appropriations. Set for hearing on August 12, 2013. This bill, commencing with the 2013–14 school year, the administration of assessments required as part of the STAR Program would be suspended, except for those assessments in the core subjects necessary to satisfy the adequate yearly progress requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in grades 3 to 8, inclusive, and grade 10, and those assessments augmented for use as part of the Early Assessment Program in grade 11, until new assessments addressing the common core state standards are developed and implemented. The suspension includes the suspension of End of Course exams in science at the high school level (these exams will be available to districts, at their own expense, through 2014/2015). The bill would establish the California Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress for the 21st Century (CalMAPP21), which would succeed the STAR Program, and specify procedures and policies for CalMAPP21.The bill also calls for Superintendent, in consultation with science teachers and other stakeholders, to develop a recommendation for science assessments to satisfy federal requirements, to be presented to the State Board within six months of the adoption of new standards. The recommendation is to include a plan to begin assessment in the 2016/2017 school year. The bill calls for the Superintendent to develop a plan for assessing non-federally required tests (including science assessment outside those referenced above) by August 2015.

Bill/Author:  SB 247/ Liu

CSTA Status:  CSTA watch list

Summary:  Currently approved by Education Committee and moved on to Appropriations. This bill, commencing July 1, 2014, would exclude pupils in grade 2 from the STAR, or any new state testing, process. The bill would require the State Department of Education, by November 1, 2014, to identify and make available to school districts information regarding existing assessments in language arts and mathematics aligned to the adopted common core academic content standards for pupils in grade 2 for diagnostic use by classroom teachers. The bill would require the savings realized from the elimination of the grade 2 standards-based achievement testing to be used by local educational agencies to administer the identified assessments.

Bill/Author:  AB 899/Weber

CSTA Status:  CSTA watch list, considering support if moved further

Summary:  English language development standards: English learners. This bill would require the Superintendent, on or before January 1, 2015, to recommend modifications to the English language development standards to align with the state board-approved academic content standards for mathematics, and would also require the Superintendent to recommend modifications to the English language development standards to align with the state board-approved science content standards, for adoption to the state board. This bill would require that funding be provided in the annual Budget Act or another statute before these provisions could be implemented. The bill would make its provisions inoperative on July 1, 2016.

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.