September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

President’s Message

Posted: Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

by Laura Henriques

2015 is off to a busy start. As you will read in executive director, Jessica Sawko’s legislative update, there have been numerous meetings at which CSTA has represented your interests in just the first month of the year. There are lots of state entities and organizations working on different elements in order for the implementation of NGSS to become a reality. We recognize that all the different elements must fit together so that we have robust professional learning opportunities, quality instructional materials, well aligned assessments, state accountability plans that count science and local district plans which include science education in their locally controlled accountability plans (this includes teacher professional learning time and support, classroom resources, and dedicated time to teach science). As we see shifts in what will be happening in K-12 classrooms we need to see parallel shifts in higher education, in particular teacher preparation programs. So while the CDE is overseeing the development of the California Science Framework, assessments and accountability plans, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing needs to look at changes to how we credential teachers. Lots of moving parts and CSTA is paying attention to all of them.

While we are watching over the state level activities, providing input to represent our members and sharing information with you, what are you doing? Have you and your colleagues developed an individual or district implementation plan? Have you started to think about what you need to move forward? Even though we don’t have final answers on many elements of the NGSS implementation timeline (i.e. when will federally mandated tests be given? What will they assess? When will instructional materials be ready for adoption?) we do know many things and can therefore move forward towards an NGSS curriculum.

As you think about what you need consider the various resources out there.

  • Rodney Olson, a member of the CSTA NGSS Committee and an NGSS Curator for NSTA, wrote an article about the recently revamped NGSS@NSTA website. 
  • There are three NGSS Statewide Rollout I workshops being offered this spring. February 2-3 in Santa Clara, April 17-18 in San Diego (at UC San Diego) and June 1-2 in Ventura. These three workshops will accommodate up to 600 participants. At the same time as these are being presented, the consortium of K-12 Alliance/WestEd, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and California Department of Education are busy planning Statewide Rollout II. This next series of workshops will bring teams of teacher leaders and administrators together for two days to delve further into NGSS topics and implementation strategies. The workshops will include NGSS 103, instructional planning tools, samples of NGSS lessons, a heavy emphasis on the Science & Engineering Practices and sessions related to administrators, high school science, cross-cutting concepts and engineering. The two days will end with time for teams to work together to determine their district’s next steps. At least three Rollout II workshops will be offered this spring throughout the state with additional offerings coming. 

And finally…

I will close this month’s update with a personal note. CSTA member Diane Hernandez recently announced her retirement from the California Department of Education. Diane, a former science teacher, has been serving as the Director of Assessment Development & Administration Division at the CDE. We would like to publicly thank Diane for her tireless work on behalf of science education (and all the other disciplines!). We wish her all the best in her retirement.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and a past-president of CSTA.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.