September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Science Subject Matter Committee Considers Your Comments

Posted: Monday, March 14th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

On Friday, February 19th, the Instructional Quality Commission’s (IQC) Science Subject Matter Committee (SMC) met to discuss the field results from the first public review session of the draft California Science Framework.  The committee considered all of the over 2,000 suggested edits and revisions. As mentioned in February’s California Classroom Science, the California Science Teachers Association’s NGSS Committee sent in comments from 625 people who attended 30 Framework review sessions across California. Other organizations that submitted recommendations included Achieve, California Department of Education, Children Now,, and Lawrence Hall of Science. The meeting, held at the California Department of Education in Sacramento, was attended by, among others:

  • Lauryn Wild, Commission IQC Chair
  • Rob Foster, Science SMC Chair
  • Dean Reese, Science SMC Vice Chair
  • Science SMC Members – Jocelyn Broemmelsiek, Soomin Chao, Lizette Diaz, Lori Freiermuth, Bill Honig, and Jennifer Woo
  • Thomas Adams, IQC Executive Director
  • Cliff Rudnick, Interim Director, Curriculum Framework and Instructional Resources Division (CFIRD), CDE
  • Bryan Boyd, Education Programs Consultant, CFIRD, CDE
  • Ilene Straus and Trish Williams, State Board of Education Liaisons
  • Matt d’Alessio, current primary writer
  • Interested public members


I attended this meeting on behalf the California Science Teachers Association and provided comments on several occasions in order to clarify particular requested revisions as well as offer suggestions as to how to address certain Science SMC concerns.  As can be imagined, many decisions were made as a result of the 8 hour discussion.  Below are outlined some of the changes the Science SMC will recommend for approval to the full IQC at their meeting on May 19-20, 2016.  


  • one per grade level.
  • focus on 3-dimensional learning and making sense around phenomena.
  • the core ideas of life science, physical science and earth and space science vignettes will be spread across the grade spans as will engineering and the Environmental Principles and Concepts.
  • grades 6-8 will also have one vignette per grade level for each the preferred integrated model and the discipline specific model.
  • Some of the remaining vignettes will be shortened to snapshots while others will be placed in an appendix.
  • place performance expectations at the beginning of the vignettes so that teachers are of aware of what to look for as they read them.
  • use the vignettes to illustrate a variety of ways performance expectations will be reached – multiple choice, portfolios, performance tasks, to name a few.

Assessment and Student Learning – Chapter 8

  • the assessment chapter should focus on classroom assessment, not state assessments.
  • the committee, realizing that formative and summative assessments will evolve over time with our understanding of the CA NGSS, chose to focus the chapter revisions on providing a variety of assessment strategies to meet the performance expectations.  Teachers may use a variety of assessments to understand the sense making a student achieved around a particular phenomena.
  • Add an administrative summary at the beginning that will indicate that assessing NGSS will look different than the previous standards.

Combining Chapter 1 & 2

  • The Science SMC decided that Chapter 1: Introduction and Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the Next Generation of Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten Through Twelve, does not give enough guidance as to the nature of NGSS.  After much thoughtful discussion, the Science SMC is going to recommend that the framework writer, Matthew d’Alessio, take the best parts of Chapter 1 and combine them with the content in Chapter 2: Overview of the California Next Generation of Science Standards.  He will determine where it is best to place the remaining portions of Chapter 1; they may possibly be in an appendix.

Computer Science in the Framework.  

  • K-5 will focus on basic computer skills.
  • 6-8 will introduce students to the use of computers to help investigate and solve science problems – computer simulations, analyzing data, etc.  
  • 9-12 will acquaint students with coding – how the programs that are used to assist scientists are created.
  • Any language that infers that computer science ‘has to’ be taught in science classes will be removed and replaced with language that suggests teachers ‘can’ use computer science to enhance their teaching of NGSS.

Other Revisions of Interest:

  • Words that describe specific facets of NGSS should only be used for that meaning.  For example, the word ‘modeling’ will only be used to mean modeling as in the Science and Engineering Practice, “Developing and using Models”.
  • Reintroduce acronyms the first time they are mentioned in any chapter.
  • Provide examples of ELD scaffolds throughout the framework
  • Provide samples from “Integrating ELD Standards into K‒12 Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning: A Supplementary Resource for Educators”.
  • Provide more examples of phenomena particularly at the elementary level.

Next Steps for the Science Framework Revision:

  • March 18, 2019 – Science SMC teleconference to review changes to revised chapters.
  • May 19-20, 2016 – Science SMC will submit their recommended edits and changes for the draft California Science Framework for approval to the full IQC.
  • June-July 2016 – Second 60-day public review and comment on IQC’s recommended Science Framework.
  • September/November 2016 – SBE action on IQC’s recommended Science Framework includes public hearing.

Keep reading California Classroom Science for updates on the progress of the Science Framework as well as specific dates for the second public review period this summer.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is President for CSTA.

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.