September 2016 – Vol. 29 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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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.