May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.