January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Next Generation Science Standards Update

Posted: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

by Pete A’Hearn

The second public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards will be released on January 8, 2013.  I urge all who are interested in a better science education for our kids to attend a public review session or review on your own.  Click here for information on how to submit a review.

In speaking with science teachers, most have high enthusiasm and hope for the new standards. Enthusiasm and hope are good things, but what is really needed is for classroom practitioners to apply their vision and creativity to these standards. For example, as you review, consider the following: Is that the best practice to connect to that standard, or have you used one that is more effective? Will this standard be more appropriate for younger or older students?  Does the chosen cross-cutting concept really connect strongly to this concept?

I have young daughters and these will be their science standards.  Are these the standards our children deserve?

I have been to many meetings where either the NGSS or the Common Core Standards were introduced. Inevitably, classroom teachers ask what the assessment system will be and when they will get curriculum. Assessment seems to be the most strongly felt concern, and this makes sense.  Teachers have learned that the assessment system is the standard.

If an animal is hit with a stick, it will become wary of sticks, and so teachers have similarly become wary of assessments and the systems in which they are embedded.  Teachers understand that assessments and accountability are vital and potentially positive. But most teachers want assessments that give useful and timely feedback, involve more carrots than sticks, don’t narrow the curriculum to that which can be assessed by multiple guess, and don’t push science, art, and history out of the classroom.

In her opening keynote at the 2012 California Science Education Conference, Dr. Helen Quinn acknowledged the critical role of assessment by telling the audience that they need to be patient, that the writers of the NGSS understand the centrality of testing and would rather go slow than be quick get it wrong. That was good advice, but we already have some hints about what the assessments will be like.

Although we will have to wait to learn the grades in which they’ll be administered and how they’ll be weighted, there are some places to go to get a sense of what a well-designed science test for the NGSS might look like. One is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

NEAP is otherwise known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” and in 2009 they pilot-tested some multi-step computer based science items and collected data on the results. The NGSS framework points to it in the section on assessment as an example of what computer based assessments are capable of doing. There are nine items requiring students to select data, draw conclusions based on it, and connect it to the body of science knowledge they have learned.

There are also sample items for the Smarter Balanced Assessment of the Common Core.  This site has examples of the types of items that will be found on the Common Core English and Math tests. It is a strong possibility the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will also be involved in the science tests. The interesting thing to note for science teachers is how many of the English and math items require kids to do the NGSS science practices, especially in the multi-step performance tasks. Check out the math performance task on crickets at the high school level or the elementary English task on animal defenses for good examples of how to integrate science into English and Math.

There are many unanswered questions about the NGSS tests, but there is good reason to hope that they will honor real science teaching more that our current system does. Happy New Year!

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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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.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. 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.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. 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.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.