September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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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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

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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

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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

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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.