May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.