January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Science-Related Legislation Introduced As New Session Gets Underway

Posted: Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

by Christine Bertrand

The legislative session has just gotten underway, but a few bills of real interest to us have been introduced.  Most salient:

SB 300 (Hancock) is a CSTA-sponsored bill that requires the review and revision of the science (and history-social science) content standards.  The bill would establish an Academic Content Standards Commission for Science and History-Social Science to develop internationally benchmarked standards, to present the standards to the State Board of Education by January 1, 2013, and for the board to either adopt or reject them by June 30, 2013.

CSTA had been approached by Senator Hancock’s office to suggest legislation that we would find most helpful, and she agreed to introduce this on our behalf.  We have supported many efforts in years past to require the science standards to be reviewed and revised, but they had been vetoed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger.  We are hopeful that, with a new governor and a new state schools superintendent (who is a former science teacher), we may actually get this attempt signed into law.

In a perfect world, we probably would not want another standards commission to be charged with developing the new standards—memories of the first commission’s work 13 years ago are still vivid and still painful—but, in the hope of getting this bill passed and signed, we thought we should conform to the language and process that was used when the English language arts and math standards were revised last year.

SB 282 (Wyland) would require the Sate Superintendent of Public Instruction and State Board of Education to consider ways to increase the number of students who go to college and graduate with degrees in scientific and engineering fields and would require the superintendent and state board to direct the “appropriate entity” to revise the science frameworks and standards and to include in the science curriculum applied mathematics, reading comprehension, expository writing, analytical, intellectual, and creative skills, and engineering elements.

SB 140 (Lowenthal) would require the Dept. of Education to develop a list before July 1, 2012 of supplemental instructional materials aligned with the common core standards in language arts and math, but also permits local district governing boards to adopt instructional materials other than those adopted by the state board if the local board determines that other materials are aligned with the common core standards and meet the needs of the students in the district (emphasis added). This last provision would be a tremendous assist to districts that feel constrained by the small number and narrow focus of materials on the state adoption lists.

AB 250 (Brownley) is titled “The Curriculum Support and Reform Act of 2011″ and contains a number of elements meant to, well, reform the standards/frameworks/instructional materials processes.  The bill would require that 1) instructional materials for math be submitted for adoption in 2014 and for English language arts in 2016; 2) the state board adopt curriculum frameworks and evaluation criteria aligned to the common core standards for math by December 31, 2012 and for language arts by March 1, 2013; 3) the state board ensure that curriculum frameworks for K-12 and instructional materials for K-8 include the English language development standards and strategies to address the needs of students with disabilities in the four core subjects, including science; 4) the curriculum commission no longer be required to evaluate and recommend instructional materials; 5) the intent of the legislature be stated to provide to local districts a process by which they may identify, evaluate, and recommend standards-aligned instructional materials for adoption by the state board.

For our purposes, items 4 and 5 are of interest, as they, first, eliminate the curriculum commission from the adoption process, and, second, suggest a process for local districts to recommend the instructional materials that will be adopted by the state. This is somewhat similar to the provision in the Lowenthal bill (SB 140) above.

Of course, the Brownley and Lowenthal bills will only be effective if or when the governor reinstates the textbook adoption process.

Christine Bertrand is executive director of CSTA.

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.

3 Responses

  1. If it was required that students DO science- not read and fill in the blank at the end of the chapter, more students would see that science is not difficult. We need to get them involved in the elem grades. Currently “hands-on” has been designated as minimum amt of time to be spent on science studies. Also content at various levels needs to be age appropiate not astronomy at 3rd grade. Teacher training is a must as most of the elem teachers I work with have no basic knowledge of different concepts, are unable to make connections between the real world, integrate the curriculum so science becomes not important. Elem teachers during pre service develop one lesson to share w/ a group but there are no science content classes required.
    I have had many former students contacting me that have gone into science related fields because of what we did in elementary school. To quote an university professor when I asked why science content was not part of student teaching she replied “We hope they bring it with them.”

  2. I think it would make more cost-saving and pedagogical sense if California simply dispensed with all this state committee work and instead adopted the US Common Core Standards AND got rid of the textbook adoption process altogether. With all the new media out there, textbooks are an anachronism. There should be science tests at all grade levels, as in some other states. Let it be up to districts to figure out what materials they need to achieve good scores. This is hard for small districts, but they can band together to do the research.

  3. The two previous comments make good points. Students must do science as in asking questions, collecting real-world data themselves, organizing/presenting data, analyzing data, and making conclusions related to the original predictions.

    Hands-on labs can be good (or bad) for this purpose but are not required as alternatives exist that do allow the above.

    What should not count are demonstrations, paper hand-outs with data to analyze, and simulations with their predetermined, precise-to-theory data.

    Hands-on labs that verify a result already told to students do not count. Neither to equipment training labs that have no investigative purpose.

    With the National Science Standards due any day, it makes sense to base California standards on them. Textbooks are fading away but we absolutely must have valid and less expensive substitute that works for all of our children, not just those who have access to computers at home. I don’t see that we’re there yet.

    What really makes lots of sense is changing the outdated science lab requirement of the UCOP a-g requirements. Replace this “how to” standard with one that focuses on the goals not how to reach them. America’s Lab Report has a good goal list to begin with. Some editing of this nearly decade-old report may be required along with some elaboration. It’s good enough to start with and create a science lab standard for California that will be a model for the nation instead of having the ridiculous 100% hands-on requirement.

    Too many hands-on labs are just time-wasting make-work activities. Many are simulations. Many are useless verification labs. You could comply completely with the current standard without ever doing any science. This situation must change.

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