January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

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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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

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.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. 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.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. 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.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.