September 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 1

Science Under Siege

Posted: Thursday, March 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

Just when we thought that there was a glimmer of hope for a new set of standards that would engage students in authentic and relevant inquiry based science, we must contend with three significant threats to science education. Due to be released for the first public comment on March 30, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), based on the Conceptual Framework for Science Education, promise a new and exciting view of science education. “The Framework is designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.” (Conceptual Framework, 2010). If the NGSS come anywhere close to this vision, it will be a significant step towards more science instruction that focuses on college and career readiness through critical thinking, problem solving, and active engagement. Given that the current standards, first published in 1998, focus primarily on content with little requirement for problem solving and critical thinking, adoption of the NGSS will change the landscape of science instruction. To accomplish such a paradigm shift will require significant effort and time. Teachers will have to rethink their approach to the curriculum, teacher preparation programs will need to retool to prepare teachers equipped to teach the new standards, new instructional materials will need to be created, and finally, new and different assessments and assessment methodologies will have to be created to insure full implementation of the NGSS.

Unfortunately, there are two pending legislative actions that could greatly inhibit the success of the implementation of any new standards. First, in his proposed budget for 2012-13, Governor Brown calls for the elimination of the mandate requiring a second year of science for high school graduation. Currently underfunded by $200 million, eliminating the mandate for the second year of science for graduation would be a step back to 1986 when the second year of science was added to the graduation requirements. Elimination of the mandate could be seen by low performing schools as permission to drop science classes and replace them with classes designed to boost standardized test performance.  The second attack, at the federal level, involves current proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The proposed legislation that includes No Child Left Behind, calls for the elimination of all testing in science and the exclusion of science from AYP calculations. Though the current administration has promised to veto any proposals with this language, the message it sends, that science is not a key component of an educated child, speaks loud and clear.  (Please note, this is a fluid process and one that changes often – CSTA is working closely with NSTA on this issue.)

The third threat, though more subtle, may be the most real of all. The recent Fordham Report, giving California Standards a grade of A, may give some decision-makers an opportunity to delay or avoid adoption of new standards all together. During difficult budgetary times, arguments could be made that if our standards are of A+ quality, there is no reason to make any changes. This attitude would leave California with standards that were authored in 1998, which do not adequately prepare students to enter colleges or careers in 2012.

Now more than ever, science teachers must be aware of the policies and politics that control the science content they teach. It is critically important that teachers make their voices heard. On March 30, the first public draft of the NGSS will be released. This will be a chance for every science teacher to review and comment on the standards that will form the foundation of the future of science education in California. At the same time, it is critically important that science teachers’ voices be heard both in Sacramento and Washington DC on policies that will impact science education far into the future. CSTA continues to represent science teachers whenever it can. Your participation and membership in your professional association can only strengthen the message that CSTA carries on your behalf.

Stay tuned to California Classroom Science for updates on all of these issues and more. I enc0urage you become familiar with the Conceptual Framework for Science Education, click here to get started.

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president.

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

7 Responses

  1. It is a shame that mathematics and language arts, which, although VERY important tools, have taken center stage, especially in the elementary grades, thus dramatically reducing the focus on science. How much better it would be if they were taught in the context of science and social studies. I am hoping that the new science framework and the Common Core standards help to see this realized. I was actually shocked to see that our governor, for whom I voted, has so little insight into the importance of being scientifically literate.

  2. Rick is right about keeping an eye on progress. . Some of the same forces, politely called “mischief makers” back in the development days of The California Science Standards, 1998, appear to be in play today. Many national and state scientific society leaders considered and reported our 1998 California Science Standards to be a disaster for developing our childrens’ science literacy and volunteered to reviseit for free. Their offer was rejected.

    The recent Fordham report’s accolades appear to be influenced by some familiar 1998 behind the scenes people. Sometimes it’s important to know history so as not to repeat it. We need now to have the high quality of science learning promised to our children by the New Generation Science Standards.

  3. Rick and Bonnie are right. Watch and pay close attention. The 1998 Science Content Standards might have looked very different from the version that was finally adopted, and I (along with a few others) attribute much of the mischief that transformed education … first in California and then later in the rest of the country … to seemingly small power plays, some out in the open, but others just under the radar. A little history lesson might be of use. I can help if anyone wants to take the lead.

  4. Scott – Christine Bertrand wrote a standards history piece back in 2009, you can access it here: be a good place for folks to start…

  5. Christine wrote a nice P.C. history. The mischief however was sometimes intense, and unfortunately sometimes successful. Much more lies between the lines of the 2009 CSTA article. Similar attempts are bound to be made this time.

    “Sunshine” should be P.C. this time. We sometimes hesitate to report until the deck is stacked. Intimidation is sometimes experienced. CSTA and our friends in the scientific community can help keep the development of the NGSS in the best interests of our California kids.

  6. Susan, Bonnie, and Scott,

    Thank you so much for your comments about this article. I wish I could have reported today that the reauthorization of ESEA had included an amendment that would leave science testing as it was (at least this was not a loss) but alas, the amendment was withdrawn this morning and the bill is moving forward without science. There was a good account of this in the NSTA Express which can be found at the following URL

    As we move forward I am committed to doing everything I can to facilitate a wide spread review of the NGSS, by stake holders in California, to insure that our input is included . Unfortunately, the previous Standards adoption was heavily impacted by a small group of people. If we mobilize as many of our constituency as possible, I hope that it will be impossible to approve standards that are different than those supported by people who have seen and support the NGSS.

    We look forward to working with you and any of our members to develop as rich an understanding of the NGSS and the Conceptual Framework as possible.

  7. […] Science Under Siege […]

Leave a Reply


More Than 1,400 Science Educators Prepare to Convene in Sacramento

Posted: Thursday, September 17th, 2015

by Deb Farkas

As we get ready to go full steam ahead with implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and eagerly await the new California Science Framework, there is no better place to be in early October than here in Sacramento, where you will find workshops, speakers, field experiences, short courses and more to inspire and re-energize your teaching. If you are not one of the more than 1,000 teachers to have registered, I invite you to do so today.

Don’t miss opening speaker, Ainissa Ramirez. Author, engineer and science evangelist, Dr. Ramirez will encourage us to ignite the spark of curiosity in all of our students and get them excited about science. Former astronaut José Hernández will close our conference with an account of his journey from migrant farm worker to engineer to mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery, and his work inspiring children to “reach for the stars.” We are also pleased to offer you a variety of highly regarded focus speakers in science and education. Learn about a strength-based approach to early science education, bringing deep sea data to the classroom, ZomBees, engaging students in engineering, and literacy, non-verbal communication patterns and social justice in the science classroom. 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.

Trying NGSS with Paper Clips and Gummy Worms

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

By now, most teachers have heard of NGSS, know that it is not going away, and have realized they will be teaching this new set of standards within the next few years. While some are excited at the possibility of new happenings, others are terrified at the prospect of having to change curriculum that they have spent years fine-tuning and tweaking. A few districts are implementing NGSS early, working out the kinks and creating guides for the rest of the state, but what about the teachers that want to venture out and try the new curriculum without the support of the entire district? It seems daunting, but there are some ways to ease into the NGSS world. Learn More…

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is the K-5 science specialist at Meadows Elementary in Manhattan Beach, CA, and CSTA’s intermediate grades 3-5) Director.

High School Teachers – We Need Your Help!

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

CSTA and its partners are trying to get a sense of what high school science looks like across the state. We are interested in knowing how many years of science your district requires for graduation, what the typical course taking patterns are, and a sense of the high school science teaching workforce. If you are in a position to answer these questions please take the survey. If you can’t provide that information we ask that you share this link with your district science leader or other appropriate administrator. It should not take very long to complete (less than 5 minutes) and the information will help CSTA and our partners as we plan NGSS activities and support. Thank you for filling out the survey yourself or for directing it to the appropriate person.

Take Survey

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.

CSTA Honors Rising Stars, Advocates, and Distinguished Contributors to Science Education in 2015

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Legislator of the Year, Future Science Teacher, Honorary Memberships, and the new Bertrand Advocacy Award. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2015 California Science Education Conference on October 2 – 4 in Sacramento. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them! 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.

Northern Happenings for September–Region 1

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

September already – allow me to add my welcome back wish to the others you are hearing across all 29 counties that make up CSTA Region 1!


CSTA Regions Map

It has certainly been a busy summer with California Science Project events across the region, and lots of activity at Math Science Partnership Grant projects as well. As you come back to class this fall, consider your summer learning, and think about how you might share it at a future CSTA conference! This year you will no doubt be trying out what you learned in your classes. By next spring you will know what you could share with colleagues at the 2016 Science Educators Conference to be held in Palm Springs. It seems a long time from now, but if you have the idea in mind as you teach your students, you can be on the lookout for what would be wonderful to share with other K-12 teachers in California. Learn More…

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.