November/December 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 2

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.

January 12-13, 2017 California State Board of Education Meeting

On January 12, 2017 the California State Board of Education approved the self-assessment tool options for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to assess their progress in the implementation of state academic standards (state priority #2). A copy of the tool is available online. The options provided allow for LEAs to submit a narrative summary describing what local measures or tools they are using to measure progress, why they selected those measures or tools, and summarize their progress based on those measures and tools. Alternatively, LEAs may complete the self-reflection tool which consists of a series of five questions with an optional narrative. As CA NGSS is one of the more recently adopted set of standards and associated curriculum framework, the reflection tool includes CA NGSS along with English Language Arts, Math, English Language Development, and History-Social Science.

The progress towards the implementation of state standards has been designated as a “local performance indicator,” as opposed to a state performance indicator in the new accountability system (known as the “Integrated Local, State, and Federal Accountability and Continuous Improvement System”). As a local performance indicator, the progress towards the implementation of state academic standards will be determined by the LEA, which can determine if the have Met, Not Met, or Not Met for More Than Two Years the standard as approved by the SBE in September 2016. The resulting status will be displayed on the soon-to-be-released “California School Dashboard” which is currently under development. The standard for the implementation of state academic standards is:

Implementation of State Academic Standards (Priority 2)

  • Standard: LEA annually measures its progress implementing state academic standards and reports the results to its local governing board and to stakeholders and the public through the evaluation rubrics.
  • Evidence: LEA would determine whether it annually measured its progress, which may include use of a self-assessment tool or selection from a menu of local measures that will be included in the evaluation rubrics web-based user interface, and reported the results to its local governing board and through the local data selection option in the evaluation rubrics.
  • Criteria: LEA would assess its performance on a [Met / Not Met / Not Met for Two or More Years] scale.

Other SBE actions at the January meeting included the approval of the definition of English Learners for the Academic Indicator (a state indicator made up of results from CAASPP assessments in ELA and math in grades 3-8 and progress on those assessments) (see Cabinet Report), performance standards for the Academic Indicator (see EdSource), approval of the self-reflection tools for LEAs to use to measure progress with parent engagement (state priority #3), and approval of a set of guiding principles to guide and direct the development of California’s ESSA State Plan. As described in the meeting agenda item (item #4). The Guiding Principles as adopted are:

  • Ensure that state priorities and direction lead the plan with opportunities in the ESSA leveraged to assist in accomplishing goals and objectives. It makes sense for California to follow the course set through LCFF and use the identified priorities as a means to align federal funding and requirements to the current system.
  • Create a single, coherent system that avoids the complexities of having separate state and federal accountability structures. The indicators and performance standards approved for the LCFF Evaluation Rubrics should serve state, local, and federal accountability.
  • Refresh applications, plans, and commitments to ensure that LEAs are evidencing alignment of federal funds to state and local priorities. The passage of the ESSA provides an opportunity to direct LEA attention to the state priorities by redesigning federally required applications and plans to align with and reinforce the current state direction.
  • Use the ESSA State Plan to draw further focus to California’s commitment to the implementation of rigorous state standards, equity, local control, performance, and continuous improvement. Taking such an approach establishes a strong foundation for California’s way forward and clearly distinguishes the work from NCLB-like federal directives.
  • Leverage state administrative funds to realign CDE operations to state priorities. The CDE has already established the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Support Team, which brings staff across programs and divisions together in support of LCFF. Through the ESSA State Plan, the State can codify a structure of cross-program support that models for LEAs thoughtful, coordinated, and coherent use of federal funds to support LCFF priorities rather than funds used in isolation.
  • Strategically approach state-allowed reservations from Title programs to further state priorities. There are both required and optional reservations that the State can design to further improvement of low-performing schools and development of educational leaders. These purposes are consistent with current state priorities to support implementation of state standards to improve student achievement.

As work on the plan progresses, CSTA and its partners will continue to urge the state to leverage ESSA funding to supporting professional learning for teachers and administrators to support the implementation of CA NGSS.

Instructional Quality Commission Meeting, January 19-20, 2017

Next week the Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) will meet to recommend for adoption by the SBE the “timeline of significant events” for the 2018 adoption of science instructional materials. If approved by both the IQC this month, and by the SBE in March, the review of instructional materials will take place in April – July 2018, with final adoption scheduled for November 2018. In addition to the timeline, the IQC will also recommend for adoption by the SBE the application for reviewers. If approved, the window for applying to be a reviewer of new instructional materials will be April 21 – July 21, 2017.

Governor Brown’s Proposed State Budget

On January 10, 2017, Governor Brown released his proposed state budget, which offers a slight increase in funding for the 2017/18 school year but lowers funding for 2016/2017 (see EdSource and Cabinet Report). A summary of the proposed budget is available online. The proposed budget projects a shortfall for this year overall and does not include any dedicated funding for standards implementation or teacher professional learning. For information on budget proposals impacting higher-education visit https://edsource.org/2017/brown-proposes-more-higher-ed-funding-but-phasing-out-middle-class-scholarships/575123.

The Education Trust-West Releases Unlocking Learning: Science as a Lever for English Learner Equity

The report investigates innovative approaches in California to advance opportunity and achievement levels for English learners. Based on in-depth site visits and featuring real world examples of high-performing schools, high-quality professional development, and innovative classroom practices, Unlocking Learning lays out a blueprint for increasing access and achievement in science for California’s 1.37 million English learners. Key takeaways of the report include:

  • Research shows that weaving together science and language development can increase students’ academic performance in reading, writing, and science simultaneously.
  • Some promising practices are resulting in achievement levels that are double and even triple the state average for English learners who met or exceeded proficiency.
  • LCFF and the implementation of the CA Next Generation Science Standards provide districts an opportunity to overhaul their approach to science education and language development.

The report concludes with district-level and state-level recommendations, along with a series of questions for community stakeholders to ask in their advocacy for closing English learner achievement gaps in science.

What’s Ahead

Looking ahead towards the rest of the month and into February, we will see meetings to work on the development of “Statements of Model Practice,” the release of practice science assessment items in preparation for the pilot, ESSA State Plan public information and feedback meetings, the release of the pre-publication version of the California Science Curriculum Framework, and the second convening of the science Community of Practice.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

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Priority Features of NGSS-Aligned Instructional Materials

Posted: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Recommendations for Publishers, Reviewers, and Educators. The California Science Teachers Association and the science teachers associations of three other Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) west-coast states, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, have co-authored a white paper on priority features of NGSS instructional materials. This is the first time our states have collaborated to convey a common vision on an issue of great importance for the implementation of the NGSS. We understand all too well that for meaningful shifts to happen and to support the full vision of the NGSS, strong K-12 Instructional materials are required. Learn More…

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CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Board Moves Forward Two Key Pieces Supporting CA NGSS Implementation

Posted: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

CSTA President Jill Grace provides public comment at the November 8, 2017, California State Board of Education meeting.

On November 8, 2017, the California State Board of Education (SBE) took action on two items of import relating to the implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS). One item was relating to the California Science Test (CAST) and the other to instructional materials. CSTA provided both written and oral comments on both items along with providing input on what CSTA and many other advocates view as a critical component of our state’s emerging accountability system – student access to a broad course of study. 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.

NGSS – Early Attempts and Later Reflections from an Early Implementer Teacher

Posted: Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

by Christa Dunkel

  • There are so many acronyms! Where do I start?
  • What “baby step” should I take first? 
  • How can I make this happen in my elementary classroom?

All of these thoughts and more swam through my head over three years ago when I began my journey into NGSS. I was fresh from a week-long institute with the K-12 Alliance as part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. Much of the week was spent on digging into the NGSS architecture – how the standards are set-up, how to read the standards, what each of the three dimensions meant. Now that I knew how to read them, I needed to figure out how to implement them into my classroom of 24 eight-year-olds. With some guidance from the K-12 Alliance leaders and my own district-level NGSS team, I began the process with some easy “baby steps.” Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

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.

Expanding Your Definition of Informal Science Education

Posted: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

by Lori Walsh

When deciding on a field trip, zoos, aquariums and science centers typically come to mind. These facilities offer students hands-on opportunities to make science observations using inquiry. Teachers can schedule standards aligned workshops or self-guided visits. If your students have already visited these facilities, you can broaden your options by exploring the larger world of Informal Science Education. Nature centers, non-profits, and environmental groups often also offer NGSS aligned programs in the natural setting. Your students can discover the local environment while making memorable experiences. Learn More…

Written by Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh

Lori Walsh is the Education/Operations Supervisor at SEA LIFE Aquarium at LEGOLAND California Resort and Informal Science Director for CSTA.