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.

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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

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:

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.