July/August 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 8

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Update

Posted: Friday, June 1st, 2012

The first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was released for review on Friday, May 14th. The review period for this draft closed at the end of the day on June 1st. If you did not have an opportunity to review the standards during this first round, CSTA strongly encourages you to participate in the second round of public reviews, anticipated for late fall of this year. Information about the draft standards can be found at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards.  A copy of the May draft of the standards is available for download from the CSTA website. If your time is limited, you might consider reviewing only a portion of the standards in your area of expertise. What ever route you choose, your comments are important to the continued development of the standards in a form and structure that will guide science instruction for years to come.

Throughout the review period, CSTA members and staff have presented, attended, and supported informational and group review meetings throughout the State. We have listed the time and location of many of these meetings on the CSTA website. If you did participate, we would love to have your general comments in the response section at the bottom of this article. In addition, many of the CSTA members and workshop facilitators will share their recollections of the review process and the NGSS as a way for CSTA to prepare for future reviews. If you did not have a chance to participate in a review, please watch CCS for information about the second public review period in the fall.

Once we have a better sense of your feelings about the NGSS the 2012 Conference Planning Committee will assemble targeted workshops and information sessions for the San Jose California Science Education Conference to be held October 19-21, 2012.

CSTA has not yet taken a formal position in support or against the NGSS or the Conceptual Framework. What we do support are the philosophies and practices included in the NGSS.  The concepts of depth vs. breadth, problem solving and critical thinking, and the scientific practices associated with the NGSS represent a significant change in the current science education landscape and one that CSTA has advocated for many years.  CSTA does support your opportunity to participate in this critical review process and encourages you to be an active participant in this process. As you have more opportunities to participate in in-service trainings, review sessions, and implementation discussions, please feel free (and encouraged) to share your thoughts and ideas with your Board members.  As we move through the summer and the fall, CCS will have additional articles and updates about the NGSS. Each of these articles will include a comment section where you can share your thoughts with the Board and your fellow science teachers.

CSTA would like your feedback. We are hosting an online discussion forum where CSTA members can post their comments, feedback, and interact with one another. This forum is available for CSTA members only and you must log-in to the CSTA website in order to participate. CSTA will use your discussions and posts to glean information about our members thoughts and opinions on the NGSS. Please click here to log-in. After you log-in, you will see a link on the upper left for “NGSS on-line forum (members only)”.

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.

One Response

  1. Many science educators are putting high hopes on the Next Generation Science Standards and are rooting hard for them to succeed. We want a chance to get our students doing more and memorizing less and we look forward to helping our students to see the crosscutting concepts that connect the sciences and connect science with other disciplines.

    But this does not mean that we should be uncritical during the opportunities we have to review. Giving tough, focused, and constructive input is the best way to ensure that our students get the standards that they deserve. As I look at the first draft of the standards I see much room for improvement and have many questions. Some suggestions for the writers and some places for teachers to look deeply:

    Language- In a response to my last post, Scott Hays asked why the crosscutting concepts had to be presented in such kid unfriendly language. Remember that in many schools teachers are required to post standards on the board and expected to refer to them directly several times each lesson. In looking over the standards, I agree and think the language used is unfriendly not to just kids, but to everyone. As it says in the AAAs’s Project 2061 Science For All Americans, “Understanding rather than vocabulary should be the main purpose of science teaching.” The writers of the NGSS seem to have trapped themselves in some tortured patterns of writing instead of writing for clarity and simplicity. This mostly seems to stem from the attempt to force a scientific practice and a cross cutting concept or two into every sentence. Here is an example from first grade:

    “Obtain information and communicate that there are tools that allow people to see more objects in the sky and in greater detail. (Clarification statement: Information can be obtained using telescopes, binoculars, or reliable media. For example, as a result of these tools, we can see more stars and study the Moon in greater detail)

    And at the other end, from high school:

    Construct an explanation of how photovoltaic materials work using the particle model of light, and describe their application in everyday devices. (Clarification statement: Everyday devices include solar cells and barcodes.) (Assessment Boundary: Qualitative descriptors only)

    It’s pretty much all in this gibberish committee speak style. I appreciate that the writers are trying hard to show that what we know should not be separated from how we know it. But we don’t have to cram practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas into a single sentence at the expense of clarity.

    An attempt to simplify:

    For the first grade astronomy standard;

    People use tools like telescopes and binoculars to see things in the sky like the stars, planets, and the Moon. Students should do research to learn about them and communicate what they learn.

    For the high school physics standard:

    The particle model of light helps explain how everyday photovoltaic materials like solar cells and barcodes work. Students should be able to make qualitative explanations about how they work based on scientific models of the nature of light

    It might be easier to slightly decouple the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Maybe for each standard set (I’m thinking of them as units) state the science concepts, list the practices that best fit that unit with an explanation of how they can be applied, and highlight the crosscutting concepts that are most evident in that unit. This seems easier than trying to fit it all into each convoluted sentence,

    All Students- These standards are written to be expectations for all students. “All Standards, All Students” is the heading of the chapter on equity. Severely cognitively challenged and emotionally disturbed, just got to this country with no formal schooling where they came from, growing up in extreme poverty with constant dislocation, growing up in conditions of abuse and neglect, or went a low performing elementary school where science wasn’t taught because it isn’t tested. All Students.

    So from one point of view, standards are supposed to be aspirations, “Aim high because you only hit what you aim for” and all that. Which I have no problem with. Its good to set high expectations and try to achieve them as long as they are anchored in reality. But we teachers have been living with standards enough to know that standards, in the hands of politicians and the media, turn into weapons. These standards are clearly more rigorous than our current California standards, which we are constantly reminded that not enough of our students are proficient in. So what happens when testing reveals that not enough of our students are proficient in the Next Generation Science Standards? (Which it will) Will the punching bags be the politicians who set policy and direct funding? Don’t bet on it. As Tony Soprano said, “#$%& rolls down hill.” The blame will rest with you my fellow science teacher, and pity you if you work in a school with high poverty or many recent immigrants.

    Grade level appropriate? – I’m out of my depth on this one since I’m not current with the latest research, but I remember lots of talk that the California standards were not developmentally appropriate, and these seem to introduce harder more abstract ideas at earlier grades. I notice this especially in the Earth Science strand. I know that middle school kids have a hard time distinguishing models from the real thing, and there is lots of model based thinking in middle school. I’m interested in hearing someone with a strong understanding of the research explaining the basis of some of the decisions.

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CTC Seeking Educators for Science Standard Setting Conference

Posted: Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Evaluation Systems group of Pearson are currently seeking California science educators to participate in a Science Standard Setting Conference for the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) program. Each standard setting panel is scheduled to meet for one-day, in Sacramento, California. The fields and dates are listed below:

Multiple Subjects Subtest II (Science), Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Physics, Monday, October 2, 2017
Science Subtest II: Chemistry, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Science Subtest II: Life Sciences, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Science Subtest II: Earth and Space Sciences, Thursday, October 5, 2017
Science Subtest I: General Science, Friday, October 6, 2017

The purpose of the conference is for panel members to make recommendations that will be used, in part, by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) in setting the passing standard, for each field, in support of the updated California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET).

Click here to nominate educators. If you are interested in participating yourself, complete an application here for consideration.


Public school educators who are:

• Certified in California
• Currently practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above. 

College faculty who are:

• Teacher preparation personnel (including education faculty and arts and sciences faculty)
• Practicing (or have practiced within the last school year) in one or more of the fields listed above, and
• Preparing teacher candidates in an approved California teacher preparation program.

 Benefits of Participation Include:
• Receive substitute reimbursement for their school (public school educators only),
• Have the opportunity to make a difference in California teacher development and performance,
• Have the opportunity for professional growth and collaboration with educators in their field,
• Be reimbursed for their travel and meal expenses, and
• Be provided with hotel accommodations, if necessary.

For more information, visit their website at www.carecruit.nesinc.com/cset/index.asp

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 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 zi@cascience.org.)

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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.