September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

One Year Ends, Another Begins!

Posted: Thursday, September 15th, 2016

By Lisa Hegdahl

June 30, 2016 was the end of my first full year as President of the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA).  During that time, I have learned a tremendous amount, worked with amazingly talented and passionate people, and had the opportunity to participate in events that would not have been available to me if I were not president.  While there is still much to do, I feel compelled to express what an honor it is to be part of an association that has accomplished so much in the past 12 months.

2015/16 California Science Teachers Association Highlights and Next Steps for 2016/17

State Board of Education – California State Accountability System


Within 10 days of my presidency, I was before the California State Board of Education (SBE) speaking on behalf of the California Science Teachers Association regarding agenda Item 1: Developing a New Accountability System: Update on the Local Control Funding Formula Evaluation Rubrics. CSTA urged the board to consider how it would incorporate into its policy frame additional outcome measures, to those that were initially provided that give an early indication of a student’s scientific literacy and if they are meeting or exceeding grade-level science standards in the early years of their education, both elementary and middle school. Much discussion and thoughtful consideration followed throughout the year, and while there is still much work to be done, in May 2016, the California State Board of Education voted to include the results for the new Science Assessment as a state indicator in the State’s Accountability System Evaluation Rubrics when the assessment results become available.



Next Steps

  • Staff will provide an update to the SBE in July about how to include data on college and career readiness, school climate, and a composite measure of English learner proficiency in the new accountability system. The SBE will continue its work through this summer and early fall in order to meet the statutory October 1, 2016 deadline for the new accountability system.

California Science Education Conference in Sacramento, October 2015 – Chair of 2015 planning committee, Deb Farkas

  • 1529 attendees
  • Keynote speakers – Anissa Ramirez, Ph.D. and Astronaut, Jose Hernandez provided messages of inspiration for the beginning and closing of the conference.
  • Primary Pathways – the California Science Teachers Association created a conference within the conference. This compact and powerful nine hour professional development course was specially designed for teachers of TK-2 to help them integrate NGSS, CCSS, and ELD standards into their daily curriculum. The course provided thorough grounding in science instruction and fortified teachers with an understanding of the three-dimensional learning associated with NGSS.
  • CSTA took full advantage of the Sacramento location and solicited workshops from the California Department of Education to present at the conference.

Next Steps

  • NEW, Longer, 90-Minute Workshops so participants can delve more deeply into the 3-dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • Primary Pathways and NEW Intermediate Pathways. As California educators strive to provide a twenty-first-century education for all students, there are few missions more urgent to long-term educational goals than equipping primary and upper elementary grade teachers with science content knowledge and pedagogical strategies to kindle the love of science in their students and set a course for lifelong learning.
  • Keynote Speakers – Chip Yates is one of the world’s most recognized green technology innovators and has set 18 World Records in electric vehicles of his own design. Recently nicknamed “The Rockstar of Science” by an inspired audience after witnessing his electrified speech, Yates has an endless supply of up-to-the-minute stories to share from his inspiring ongoing World Record activities.
Dianna Cowern Pic 2
  • Dianna Cowern – Physics Girl – is an award-winning science communicator and educator. She is the primary content creator for her YouTube channel, Physics Girl with PBS Digital Studios. Dianna received her BS in physics from MIT before researching low-metallicity stars at the Harvard CfA and designing an iPad app as a software engineer at GE. She then pursued her career in STEM outreach working as an educator at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center and as a physics outreach coordinator at UCSD. Her work on Physics Girl has been featured on the Huffington Post, Slate Magazine, and Scientific American blogs.
  • The first 60-day public review of the CA Science Curriculum Framework took place November 17, 2015–January 19, 2016. Through work of the NGSS Committee, co-chaired by Past President, Laura Henriques and Region 4 Director, Peter A’Hearn, CSTA supported 30 review Sessions across the state with more than 625 people participating in the sessions. Feedback from each session was sent directly to the state and the top five comments per chapter were shared with CSTA’s NGSS Committee. Committee members selected a chapter to oversee. They were responsible for synthesizing the comments submitted related to their chapter. As CSTA President, I was able to use the raw data and the synthesis for my letter, on behalf of CSTA, to the CDE and for public comment during the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) and Science Subject Matter Committee (Science SMC) meetings.

Next Steps

  • The second 60-day public review of the CA Science Curriculum Framework is tentatively scheduled to begin in late June 2016. CSTA members will receive notification when the chapters are available for review. The State Board of Education is scheduled to approve the final draft of the framework in November 2016.

State Board of Education – California Science Assessment – In March, 2016, the CDE recommended that the State Board of Education approve the grades for which the CA NGSS summative assessments will be administered and recommended that the SBE approve the development of three online CA NGSS summative assessments to meet the requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act and Education Code. The grade five assessment will consist of grade five performance expectations and matrix sampling of performance expectations from kindergarten through grade four; The grade eight assessment will consist of middle school (grades six through eight) performance expectations; The grades ten, eleven, or twelve assessment, will consist of high school performance expectations.

Next Steps

  • June 13, 2016, at 1:00-2:30PM, there will be a joint meeting between the California Department of Education, the California Science Teachers Association, and the California Alliance for Next Generation Science Standards. The meeting will be an opportunity for the CDE and its testing contractor (ETS) to share information on the recommended assessment approach for the CA-NGSS alternate assessment (the replacement for CAPA). There will be opportunities to provide input on the recommended approach as well as administration of the 2017 alternate assessment pilot test
  • Current CA Science Assessment Timeline:
  • CA NGSS Pilot Test, 2016/17
  • CA NGSS Field Test, 2017/18
  • CA NGSS Operational Test, 2018/19 and beyond

CSTA Volunteers – In the spring of 2015, a record number of 50 volunteers signed up to serve on CSTA Committees. In the spring of 2016, the record was broken once again with 115 non-board members volunteering! The all-volunteer CSTA Board of Directors is working to place all these dedicated professionals on committees.

Next Steps
If you volunteered – THANK YOU! You will be notified in July of your committee assignment. These larger committees will enable CSTA to do even more to Promote High-Quality Science Education in California. If you did not volunteer, consider getting involved next year!


After School Special, May 26, 2016 – Yearlong NGSS Planning Using Phenomena

  • After School Specials are designed to connect members locally while gaining current, innovative information – FREE to CSTA Members/ $10 for non-members.
  • Attended by 23 educators at the Sacramento County Office of Education

Next Steps

  • A toolkit is being created to assist members who would like to host their own After School Specials.
  • CSTA’s Membership/Marketing Committee (co-chaired by Mary Whaley, CSTA’s Informal Science Director and Lisa Hegdahl, President) is actively seeking members to host After School Specials around the state.

Social Media Groups continue to grow under the leadership of the CSTA Communications Committee – Chair, Jill Grace:

Next Steps

  • Continue to connect California educators with information that is helpful and inspirational, and be a resource for quality networking. Plans in the works to better support higher education professionals.
  • California Classroom Science (CCS) – online publication of CSTA, Publication Committee co-chairs Minda Berbeco and Val Joyner. With 16,979 subscribers, the focus last year was on monthly themes related to the implementation of NGSS in California. There was also an increase in the number of articles written by the California NGSS Early Implementers as the second year of NGSS implementation continued, and 44 non-Board members submitted articles.

Next Steps

  • In 2016/17, monthly themes will be replaced by a focus on lesson plans and ideas for using NGSS in the classroom.  CSTA Membership appreciation and recognition will make a stronger appearance. CSTA will continue to encourage non-Board members and CA NGSS Early Implementers to contribute articles to California Classroom Science.

Thank you to CSTA’s dedicated members, Board of Directors, volunteers, staff, and partners for all you do to contribute to the mission of Promoting High Quality Science Education.

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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 Past-President of CSTA.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. 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.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.