May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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.

Leave a Reply


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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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…

Powered By DT Author Box

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.