September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Move Fast or Move Slow?

Posted: Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

by Peter A’Hearn

The CST tests are now well on their way out. There are science tests at grades 5, 8, and 10 set to take place at the end of the 2014 school year, but they will not affect a school’s AYP (they never have) and most likely will not affect a school’s API, which will likely be frozen for two years. Even when testing was still an issue, there was plenty that teachers eager to shift toward NGSS could do and now that the testing pressure is off, more teachers are looking at making the real changes that NGSS will require.

How fast should you go? It depends on your situation and how much you like to be at the pointy end. With NGSS assessment unlikely to begin until 2016-17, you can choose to jump right in or to sit back and let others lead the way (and make the mistakes). In talking to other teachers I have found that people have been moving in a variety of directions and are already experiencing a range of challenges.

Elementary-

Challenges: Some content is brand new, some content is changing grade levels, and the science and engineering practices, cross cutting concepts, and some of the content (like engineering) are unfamiliar to many elementary teachers.

What people are doing: This is early in the process so there is no need to make huge shifts. Some schools are getting their teachers who are most passionate about science to take the lead and start to design units for next year and some schools have the goal of trying to implement one NGSS unit next year. Many of these schools and teachers will be sharing what they do and lessons learned online

Some sites are starting to better align their curriculum to the NGSS. This should be done with caution as we don’t have a California State Framework yet, but there are engineering kits like “Engineering is Elementary” that can provide a very easy and fun introduction to engineering.

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Secondary-

Challenges: Middle school teachers are unsure whether they will be implementing the NGSS science using an integrated model or a discipline-specific model. Uncertainty also remains about the high school sequence. California lets districts decide, but a district’s decision will depend on a variety of factors such as how NGSS will be tested and the University of California’s A-G requirements.

Some content is new to middle and high school teachers. Some of the science and engineering practices are new, and integrating the cross cutting concepts is unfamiliar. Equipment is less of a concern for secondary, but some new acquisitions may be needed.

What people are doing: Most are taking a “wait and see” approach to reorganizing the grade levels, so they are focusing on the NGSS that align with their existing standards and trying to add the practices and cross cutting concepts.

Some schools are taking their existing units and adding NGSS performance tasks to them. Corona Norco schools have already begun to field test NGSS aligned performance tasks at the end of every science unit. Many districts are talking about reorganizing their units for next year once they know what options the State is giving us. People will be trying to develop their own units as well as seeing what others are developing.

This will be an exciting time for those who want to get creative and explore. Teachers, schools, and districts will be developing new lessons, units, and performance assessments. Sharing our ideas will help everyone to make the shift. CSTA is a great statewide resource that provides many opportunities to share and learn during this process.

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.