March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

The Next Generation of California Science Standards

Posted: Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

What will California science standards look like at this time next year? At present, we really don’t know. As we saw with the number of changes between the first and second public drafts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and with the large number of reviews received by Achieve (thank you to those who were able to take time of out your busy lives to submit a review), this means we  still can’t be sure what the final NGSS will be until they’re released later this month. Even if we knew now, we still do not necessarily know what the California science standards will look like. As explained in last month’s president’s column, the NGSS release by Achieve, Inc. only starts the process. At this time, there is no guarantee that the State Board of Education (SBE) will adopt the NGSS, in their final form. Before the SBE’s final adoption of new standards occurs, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI), Tom Torlakson, must recommend new science standards that are based on the NGSS between the release of the final version of the NGSS and the presentation of the recommended science standards to the SBE the Superintendent will collect public comment and hear testimony from stakeholders. The SBE will then have four months to review the SSPI’s recommendation and make their own decision to adopt, amend, or reject the SSPI’s proposal. In the end, the version of science standards that will manifest in California is still unknown.

Given this uncertainty, what can we do to prepare for the changes that are bound to occur?  First, we can take a lesson from the standards that have already been adopted – both Mathematics and English-Language Arts have the Common Core State Standards. Though the California implementation of those standards is just beginning, there are several lessons we can already take from them. In math, there is a major emphasis on the practices and applications of mathematics, and it will no longer be sufficient to memorize formulas for solving difficult problems or “find the right answer” without being able to explain what it means. Instead, greater emphasis is placed on the practices associated with using mathematics to understand real world problems. In the same vein, we already know that, regardless their final format, the new science standards will emphasize the realities of science, engineering, and technology and the practices and applications that tie all those subjects together. With this in mind, we can begin engaging our students in modeling and thinking critically. We can work to incorporate real world technology and engineering examples in our classes. We can help our students learn to create mental models of the phenomena that they observe everyday and pursue a deeper understanding of how those models work. For example, rather than just requiring student to memorize the stages of meiosis we must begin to help them build understanding of the connections those processes share with biodiversity, understanding cancer, and disease heritability. In the process, we will better engage our students and may motivate them to pursue further studies in the STEM fields.

Similarly, the ELA Common Core standards contain specific expectations for including more non-fiction reading and technical writing in science classes. Already, their implementation is having a significant impact in our science classes. More and more, teachers are including technical writing in their lessons by setting higher expectations for linking evidence to conclusions. These are excellent tools for improving students’ scientific reasoning and communication skills, which we know will be central to any new science standards that strive to prepare students for college and career. As science educators, we can help improve these skills by incorporating authentic reading and writing as part of the science curriculum to demonstrate the importance of context. By making literacy a key part of the science curriculum instead of a subject all its own, science will be seen as an integral part of the core curriculum.

Although we don’t know what the next generation of science standards will be in California there is no reason to sit idly by waiting for a bolt of lightning from on high to define them for us. There are many things we can already do within the context of the already-adopted Common Core Standards that will support and ease the implementation of new science standards.  Any task that engages our students in critical thinking, problem solving, and the general practices of science, technology, engineering, and math can only serve to better prepare them for the college and careers of their futures.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

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California Science Curriculum Framework Now Available

Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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.

Call for CSTA Awards Nominations

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education 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.

Call for Volunteers – CSTA Committees

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017


CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: 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.

A Friend in CA Science Education Now at CSTA Region 1 Science Center

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see 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.

Learning to Teach in 3D

Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”

I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: