September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

NGSS Early Implementation Begins!

Posted: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

Galt Elementary School District embraces change. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

Galt Elementary School District embraces change. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

On Sunday, August 3, 2014, 120 teachers, administrators, and other science specialists from eight California school districts and two California Charter Management Organizations, converged on Stone Brewery in San Diego. The meet-and-greet reception and ice breaker transitioned into brief speeches by K-12 Alliance Statewide Director Kathy DiRanna, Senior Vice President of Content Research and Development for Achieve Incorporated Steve Pruitt, and California State Board of Education member Trish Boyd Williams. Everyone in the room could feel that they were about to be part of something very special. I was fortunate to be one of many in the crowd that night. Below are some of my impressions of the days that followed.


A Time of Change
Graciously hosted by High Tech High in San Diego, the first day of training began with activities that invited participants to consider what happens when people are asked to change. Pairs were instructed to look each other over. Then, turning back to back, each individual changed five things about themselves. Facing each other again, each partner identified what the other person had altered. When asked to repeat the process with five additional changes, groans of dissension could be heard throughout the room along with comments such as, “We can’t change anymore than we already have!” “I could barely change the first five!” The presenters Karen Cerwin and Rita Starnes – K-12 Alliance Regional Directors – closed the activity by pointing out that once people have made a change, it is difficult when they are asked to change even more, or when the change that occurs is not the change they envisioned. Participants were challenged to keep this in mind while moving towards the Next Generation of Science Standards and in the future while helping their colleagues do the same. Presenters cautioned that we must continue to move from A (the old Science standards) towards B (the NGSS) and not go from A towards B and back to A again – which is very easy to do. Steve Pruitt spoke of the need to move towards NGSS implementation when he stated that the more teachers think that what they already do is the NGSS, the more they steer away from the intent of the NGSS: “Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Cadres Guide Teacher Learning

Jennifer Granahan  (Galt Elementary School District) shows off her Mars habitat. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

Jennifer Granahan (Galt Elementary School District) shows off her Mars habitat. (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

All NGSS Early Implementers participated in a nine-hour Cadre (three hours on three consecutive days). The intent of the Cadre was to experience an NGSS learning sequence as an adult learner and to provide a snapshot of what NGSS might look like in a classroom. My Cadre leaders were Susan Gomez-Zwiep, CSU Long Beach; Robert Sherriff, San Juan Unified School District; David Polcyn, CSU San Bernardino; and Norm Herr, CSU Northridge. We began with an activity that illustrated the transfer of energy between two solids. Following the completion of the activity, discussion with our colleagues, and explanations of the phenomena from other groups, we each wrote down our understanding of the concepts – this was our mental model. Our mental models were revised each time we gained additional information throughout the three-day Cadre – information that came from observations, data, group dialogue, readings, and direct instruction. The power of a good mental model is taking what is known and applying it to a new situation. Ultimately, we used our mental models to design a Mars habitat (Go Engineering!) that maintained heat and created precipitation.

AdministratorsCritical Team Members

San Diego School District - Team Building (Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

San Diego School District – Team Building
(Photo by Lisa Hegdahl)

Each district involved in the NGSS Early Implementation process has at least one administrator on their team. Often they attended training sessions with the rest of their groups, at other times they trained separately – such
Abrams Planetarium

as a session that addressed how to observe the classroom of an Early Implementer. Due to the logistics of not only implementing the NGSS, but also being part of Early Implementation in the state, administrators are crucial members of each Early Implementation team. They have an understanding of how their districts work internally that will help the Early Implementer teachers navigate through the next school year more successfully. Each administrator is able to address the unique concerns of their team members and is able to put to rest some of the anxiety about what the next year will hold.

Let the Journey Begin!

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday August 8, after over 36 hours of training, my fellow Early Implementers and I re-convened at the High Tech High building where we had started five days earlier. After closing comments from Kathy DiRanna and her K-12 Alliance team, we headed to our cars and to the airport, a little tired and a little overwhelmed, but also excited to begin the journey that we all knew would affect not only California students, but those all across the nation.



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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

3 Responses

  1. I am curious to know which districts were represented. Either I read the article too rapidly or they were not mentioned. Was the largest district in the state represented?

    This article seems to indicate that the cheer-leaders are in place and the game is ready to begin. It is my feeling that the “team” they represent could be missing several important players.

    The exercise about addressing change was interesting and probably was required for the cheer-leaders. However, what if the new program is really inferior and many of the teachers called upon to play the new game know that the rules are wrong?

  2. Dear Bill,
    That information was in our July reporting, here is a link back to that article:

    Selected in a competitive application process, with input from expert reviewers, and funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the eight California districts are: Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Kings Canyon Unified School District, Lakeside Union School District, Oakland Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Tracy Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District.

    The two California CMOs in the Initiative are Aspire and High Tech High, whose participation is funded by the Hastings/Quillin Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

  3. Bill,
    In order to keep the article length manageable and not repeat too much information that was already published in CCS, I inserted an excerpt from Kathy DiRanna’s article (with link) that gives full details on the selected districts and the Initiative – see insert above. Thanks for your interest.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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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.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.