September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Standards, Framework, Instructional Materials, Assessment—Science-Related Bills Wend Their Way Through Legislature

Posted: Thursday, May 5th, 2011

by Christine Bertrand

Several pieces of legislation relevant to science education have been introduced and are being heard in committee.

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.

Currently, there is no requirement in law that the content standards ever be updated. This means that California’s students will continue to lag behind other states (and nations) until our state reviews and updates our science content standards. CSTA has 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.

Status: Passed Senate Education Committee; now in Senate Appropriations Committee

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) the State Board of Education (SBE) adopt revised curriculum frameworks and instructional materials criteria aligned to the new common core standards for math by May 30, 2013 and for language arts by May 30, 2014; 2) 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; 3) the curriculum frameworks include strategies for integrating 21st century skills; 4) a process be established by which local districts can recommend instructional materials for adoption, removing the curriculum commission from the adoption process; 5) the intent of the legislature be stated to provide to local districts a process for developing professional development modules and opportunities for teachers and administrators; 6) the STAR assessment program be reauthorized for an additional year but requires the state superintendent to develop recommendations to transition to a formative, high-quality assessment system.

Although much of this bill has relevance only for the math and language arts common core standards, we are interested in furthering the integration of 21st century skills into curriculum and in allowing local districts the flexibility to adopt their own instructional materials, rather than continuing the cumbersome and sometimes politically-motivated adoption process we currently have—once adoptions are reinstated, of course.

Status: Passed Assembly Education Committee; now in Assembly Appropriations Committee

AB 1033 (Feuer) would permit the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to recommend a schedule to the State Board of Education for reviewing and modifying the academic content standards. This bill is sponsored by the SPI and is another attempt to require the periodic review and revision of the standards.

Status: Passed Senate Education Committee; now in Senate Appropriations Committee

SB 402 (Correa) states the intent of the legislature that 21st century skills be integrated into the curriculum frameworks of core curricula, including English language arts, math, science, history-social science, visual and performing arts, and world languages.

Status: Passed Senate Education Committee; now in Senate Appropriations Committee

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.

Status: Passed Senate Education Committee; being held in Senate Appropriations Committee suspense file.

Christine Bertrand is the legislative director of the 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.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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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

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

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.