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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.