September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

President’s Retrospective

Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013

by Rick Pomeroy

When I began my term as president two years ago in July I had no idea of the changes that would be brewing for children in California schools. In July of 2011, I was focused on re-professionalizing science teaching, increasing membership, and providing more services to our members and didn’t yet fathom the gathering storm that standards, both Common Core (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) represented. Two years later, it is clear that the new CCSS and NGSS will bring major changes to what we do in our classrooms, and in what CSTA, as your professional organization, will be doing for you.

The two years of my term as president have been consumed by the development and release of the NGSS.  It began in July of 2011 with the release of the Framework for K-12 Science Education, followed by writing and review of at least two drafts of the NGSS before their release in April of 2013. (For a detailed timeline of the development of NGSS go to http://www.nextgenscience.org/development-process) As Laura Henriques clearly describes in her article in this issue, the process is not finished. In California there is still much work to be done. On Friday, June 29, the Superintendent of Public Instruction proposed what California’s new science standards should look like, the Next Generation Science Standards, with a few changes for California. Once approved in their final form, the process of developing curricula for California will begin again, eventually resulting in a new vision for science education in our state.

With those changes looming, I asked myself how I would assess my years as president? In terms of membership, our numbers have remained reasonably stable. Given all that has happened in these two years, I am disappointed about this. I would have hoped that science teachers in California would see the value of membership in a professional organization, working together as a team, to move our goals of better science forward. Over the next several years, as our movement to new standards and new frameworks becomes increasingly California-centric, there will be many more opportunities for California science educators to come together to support each other and our efforts to build a stronger science curriculum.

In terms of professionalism, many teachers contributed to the NGSS development process, often at their own expense or with minimal support. This to me is a sign of professional commitment and I would like to thank all of you who have participated on a panel, as a reviewer, a speaker at the public comment sessions, or as a member of an organization or group that provided training and support. As we go forward, science teachers must continue to be active participants in this process. Regardless of reimbursement or compensation, your contributions will not only help determine what science education in California will look like for the next several decades, it will also help you to understand what you are going to be asked to teach in your own classroom. Participation in planning sessions, on committees, attending conferences, and encouraging other teachers to participate and become members are examples of your commitment to professionalism.

Finally, in terms of providing increased services to our members, I believe that although not highly visible, CSTA has been your representative at every single NGSS activity, meeting, conference, legislative hearing, and State Board of Education meeting. Serving as your advocate is one way that CSTA can provide service to our members, but it is not the only way. Over the next several years, there will be many opportunities to provide professional development, participate on framework and assessment committees, and to share success stories with our members.  This is true service to our members and I encourage you to participate in any and all of these if possible.

Overall, I feel that it has been a good two years. As always seems to be the case, we accomplished a lot but there is so much more to do. I want to thank you for this opportunity to serve as your president and I look forward to working with Laura Henriques and Lisa Hegdahl, (the President and President-elect for the next two years), as we strive to make the vision of the work we have done a reality.

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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 and is a 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

Cal

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.