January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

New Research Finds Potential for Science Learning in Middle School Goes Untapped

Posted: Sunday, April 1st, 2012

California’s middle schools have the potential to provide students with high quality science education, but significant challenges limit opportunities for science learning, leaving that potential unfulfilled, according to new research released on March 22, 2012  in Sacramento.

The research shows that middle schools offer dedicated time for science, access to facilities and a teaching force that is fairly well prepared for teaching the subject. But students often lack access to science instruction in earlier grades and arrive at middle school underprepared and uninterested. Systemic support for science has eroded and overcrowded classrooms, insufficient time for instruction and inadequate materials limit access to high quality learning opportunities.

And while many teachers are well prepared for teaching science, nearly one-quarter of middle school teachers do not have a background or credential in science. Teachers also need opportunities to continually deepen their knowledge and improve their teaching skills, while keeping up with ever changing developments in the field.

“California’s middle schools offer critical strengths for teaching science,” says Holly Jacobson, Director of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd.  “But too often their efforts are undermined by difficult challenges that are limiting opportunities for science learning for students.”

These findings and others are explored in Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in CaliforniaThis new report examines the results of a statewide study of science education conducted in 2010 and 2011 among teachers, principals and school district leaders in California, as well as analysis of secondary data in selected school districts. The study was commissioned by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd and conducted by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and SRI International as part of their Strengthening Science Education in California Initiative. The report follows earlier research on science education in California’s elementary schools published in October 2011.

“Our research finds that students in California’s middle schools are unprepared for and uninterested in science learning,” says Ardice Hartry, a researcher at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. “And unfortunately, middle school students are unlikely to have access to high quality learning opportunities that engage them in the exploration and practice of science.” The analysis suggests that just 14 percent of middle school teachers provide a pattern of classroom practices that support regular engagement of students in the practices of science.

The research shows that nearly 40 percent of teachers view students’ lack of interest as a major or moderate challenge to science instruction, and nearly half (47%) of principals report students’ lack of preparation as a major or moderate challenge. The problem of inadequate preparation appears worse in schools serving low-income students. Thirty percent of principals in schools in the lowest income quartile said lack of student preparation was a major problem, while just 6 percent of principals in the highest income quartile reported preparation as a major problem.

The report also details challenges to teaching science at the middle school level.  In addition to the inadequate preparation of students in elementary schools, class size, funding and lack of access to needed materials are cited as barriers to science instruction. And while many middle school teachers have had access to professional development for teaching science, more than half of teachers say more is needed.

“If science learning is going to be a priority, it is imperative that California act to strengthen science education in elementary schools so that students will be prepared for and interested in the pursuit of science in middle school and beyond,” concludes Jacobson. “We should also build upon the existing strengths of our middle schools and address the challenges they face in ways that promote high quality learning opportunities in science.”

To further efforts to strengthen science education in California the report’s authors offer specific recommendations. Highlights of these include:

  • Prepare for the Next Generation Science Standards now under development.
  • Focus on elementary science.
  • Ensure that teachers have the professional development and other support needed to provide students with a comprehensive, experiential science program.
  • Examine the state requirements for middle school science teachers to ensure that the path leading to the credential adequately prepares the credential holder to teach to the rigors of middle school science.
  • Provide opportunities for vertical professional learning communities.
  • Examine the master schedule of middle schools to ensure that sufficient time is devoted to science classes and is scheduled to accommodate lab work and experiential learning.

Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in California is published as part of the work of Strengthening Science Education in California, a research, policy and communications initiative funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to improve the quality of science education. The report and summary materials can be found on the web at www.cftl.org/science. The research can also be found on the Lawrence Hall of Science website at www.lawrencehallofscience.org.

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.

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Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. 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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. 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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. 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.