September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

NGSS Implementation Update

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Jessica Sawko

The following provides updates on the status of various aspects of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in California. Topics covered are statewide assessments for science, curriculum framework development, and NGSS professional learning opportunities.


July 15 – 18, 2014 two two-day meetings of science education stakeholders will be held in Sacramento to start the process that was set forth in legislation (AB 484) last year to develop new statewide assessment for science that will comply with federal assessment requirements and align with the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools. The participants of the stakeholder meeting are California science teachers, individuals with expertise in assessing English learners and pupils with disabilities, parents, and measurement experts. There will be several CSTA members serving as participants in the stakeholder meetings. Our thanks goes to those members who answered CSTA’s call for volunteers and are committing two days of their summer to participate in these important meetings.

In addition to discussing the federally required assessments, the stakeholder groups will discuss potential additional assessments as outlined in AB 484. These stakeholder groups will inform the recommendation that the Superintendent of Public Instruction will make to the State Board of Education regarding future of statewide science assessments. Until new assessments are in place, the CST science assessments (based on the 1998 standards) in grades 5, 8, and 10 will continue.

Curriculum Framework

At the July 10, 2014 meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE), the SBE will vote to appoint the members of the Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee (CFCC). CSTA is pleased to report that there are many CSTA members who are on the list that has been approved and recommended by the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC). The CFCC will play a significant role in the revision of the Science Framework for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (Science Framework). CFCC members will be required to come the meetings having read and responded to draft chapters of the framework, provide additional input and resources for the chapters, and in some cases they may be called upon to provide text for the chapters as well.

The following is a list of CSTA members who are being recommended for appointment to the CFCC – CSTA thanks you for volunteering your time for this important work:

  • Robert Sherriff (co-chair)
  • Jo Topps
  • Susan Gomez-Zwiep
  • Juanita Chan
  • Nicole Hawke
  • Lisa Hegdahl
  • Stephanie Pechan
  • David Tupper
  • Anthony Quan
  • Jeanine Wulfenstein
  • John Galisky

The work of the writers of the Science Framework and CFCC will be guided by the framework guidelines that will also be considered by the SBE at the July 10 meeting. These guidelines were developed from the Framework Focus Groups (see reports from Focus Groups #1 and #3) and additional public comments received via email and during the meeting of the IQC to approve the recommendations. A complete copy of the Focus Group report and public comments received is available online.

NGSS Professional Learning Opportunities

The NSTA/CSTA Blended Learning Experience: Shifting Instruction Through Practices: NGSS and Common Core in California Schools which commenced with a webinar on June 17, 2014 and was scheduled to continue this July has, due to unforeseen circumstances, been re-scheduled as follows:

  • Kick-Off: December 6, 2014, Long Beach
  • Web Seminar: Spring 2015
  • Face-to-Face Summer Institutes (one of two in either San Francisco Bay Area or Anaheim) Summer 2015

CSTA and NSTA will keep you posted on the future dates for this professional learning opportunity.

CSTA and CASCD have teamed up to offer three one-day introductory level workshops for teachers and administrators, Introduction to the NGSS: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning:

NGSS State Roll-Out Symposium #1, brought to you by K-12 Alliance/WestEd, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the California Department of Education:

CSTA will provide an update on the State Implementation Plan when information becomes available, sometime this coming Auguste or September.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

2 Responses

  1. As a retired teacher of 45 classroom years, I still have a great interest in curriculum. Our last set of standards slipped by too fast and we were saddled with some real challenges. I am interested in what is currently happening and just missed the discussion sessions last year on the new ones. I would be willing to assist or participate in working with these.
    In our district I played a role in teacher training seminars for over 20 years. A bit of that may still be in me.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Thank you for your offer of assistance and participation – there will be a good deal of work to be done in the next year on the curriculum framework. If you are interested in volunteering to support the work of CSTA on this, I encourage you to re-join CSTA (we offered a retired membership at a discount over the regular membership rate). After you re-join, you will be added to the member roster that receives our call for volunteer opportunities relating to NGSS. You can join online:

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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.