September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

State Board Adopts NGSS – Delays Decision on Middle School – Now What?

Posted: Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

by Jessica Sawko

A new era of science education in California is now in the horizon. For many years CSTA has been advocating for new, high-quality science education standards that emphasize depth of understanding over surface knowledge, engage students in doing science, and foster critical thinking, and last month, those many years of hard work finally paid off. At approximately 4:00 pm on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 the California State Board of Education (SBE) voted unanimously to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California. The vote was followed by an outburst of applause and cheers from those in the audience.

The matter of the Next Generation of Science Standards for California is not completely settled. Due to the overwhelming number of responses from teachers in California, the SBE deferred their decision on the arrangement of the middle school standards until their November 6-7 meeting. The State Board received many letters and emails in advance of their September 4 meeting both in support of and in opposition to the proposed integrated middle school arrangement of the Next Generation Science Standards. The board heard a presentation on the proposed integrated model for middle school. Presenters included Kathy DiRanna, statewide director of K-12 Alliance and Stephen Pruitt of Achieve (both will be presenting at the 2013 California Science Education Conference). During the public comment period there were speakers and organizations both for and against the proposed integration as well as those that encouraged the board to allow individual districts to choose between an integrated or discipline specific model.

The webcast archive of the September 4, 2013 State Board of Education meeting is available online. To view the presentation and public comment on Item #10 – the NGSS agenda item – use the navigation provided to jump to that section.

So Now What?

Full implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards will not be realized for a number of years (2015/2016 at the earliest). A planning group has been formed by the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop an implementation plan that will span several years and depends in some part of the signing of legislation currently on Governor Brown’s desk (see this month’s legislative update). As a part of the implementation planning process, CDE is interested in learning about your professional development needs and implementation concerns. During the month of October they are collecting data from stakeholders around the state via a online survey. Please take a few moments to share your thoughts and needs about NGSS implementation.

In the meantime, CSTA is offering numerous workshops and other events during the 2013 California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs. If you are new to the Next Generation Science Standards or very familiar with them and would like to explore what this might look like in your classroom, the conference is the place to be. For a list of all workshops addressing the Next Generation Science Standards, click here. There will also be opportunities to ask questions of California Department of Education staff members and NGSS experts during set times at the CSTA booth in the exhibit hall. That is what will be taking place formally. On an informal basis, the conference will allow you to interact with teachers from all over the state with a wide array of experiences that will allow you an opportunity to talk about the Next Generation Science Standards and what it might mean for you and your students in the coming years. If you are able to attend the conference, please register by October 7 to take FULL advantage of discounts and save you time when you arrive at the conference.

If you have an opinion on how you think the State Board of Education should vote on the matter of arrangement of the middle school science standards, please send an email to the State Board of Education. Your voice does matter and it is important for the State Board to hear from as many educators as possible on this issue, no matter your position. To send your comments to the State Board:

  • Send an email to
  • Include “Next Generation Science Standards Middle School Arrangement” in your subject line. Please use this subject line until the agenda for the meeting is posted on October 25, 2013 – at which time you should include the agenda item number and subject as your email subject line.
  • Focus your comments on the matter to be considered by the State Board, the proposed arrangement of the middle school standards (available here). Rationale documents supporting the proposed model are available for download from the CDE website.
  • Please copy CSTA on your email to the State Board so that we may continue to hear from as many members as we can (please copy
  • To open an email window with all of this pre-populated, click here.
  • The deadline for submitting your comments to the State Board is 12:00 pm on Monday, November 4, 2013.

Adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards if but the first step of many in this multi-year process. As always, and only through the support of our members, CSTA is here to represent science educators, provide you with up-to-date and accurate information, and to promote high-quality science education. CSTA will continue to update our website and include information in California Classroom Science with information on the Next Generation Science Standards and how you can be involved in the process.



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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

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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.

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.