January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

State of Science Education in California

Posted: Friday, April 1st, 2011

The following is a reasonable accounting of the content of my presentation at the Science Matters Town Hall Meeting at the NSTA Conference in San Francisco in early March.

In science, we often talk of things in pairs, action-reaction, oxidation-reduction, dominant and recessive, predator and prey, S-waves and P-waves, Adenine and Thymine, Guanine and Cytocine, and I guess, when asked to comment on the state of science education in California, from the teachers’ perspective, I would have to say that it could be better and it could be worse.

In California, we have a desire and a goal to prepare more students to enter science and, or STEM related fields in college, yet our state only requires two years of science for graduation from high school. This lack of commitment to the importance of science as a part of the core curriculum results in a wide range of science achievement amongst high school students. For example, The Sacramento Bee recently reported dramatic gains in test scores for students in some California schools, yet statewide CST and NAEP test data clearly show that many California students are lagging behind in science proficiency. That same NAEP data reveals that there is no longer a significant difference in the performance of males and females on national assessments, yet African American and Latino students as well as students of poverty score as much as 32 points lower than their white and Asian peers on these same tests. Clearly, dramatic gains in test scores are not universal. There are still large populations of students struggling to achieve in science.

Part of the discrepancy in achievement levels lies in the structural treatment of science as a component of the curriculum. With the onset of the State Assessment Program, California developed a set of gold-level science content standards outlining the content for all grade levels. Unfortunately, in the implementation of those standards, we only assess science for all students in grades 5, 8, and 10. The implication of this testing format is that little science is taught in elementary schools before grade 5. At a critical, formative time in their developmental lives, many children in California are not receiving any science instruction or, at best, woefully inadequate instruction for a few minutes each week. In essence, the statewide focus on math and literacy, both in curricula and assessment, results in an early childhood curricula that is devoid of the rich, thought-provoking experiences that science provides.  This dearth of quality science instruction at an early age robs students of the foundational knowledge and curiosity necessary for accessing more advanced studies in science and technology.

As science teachers, we want our students to propose experiments, collect and analyze data, and draw evidence based conclusions – yet the policy makers increase class size, decrease budgets, and expect teachers to cover all of the standards associated with content-rich areas and to do this in less than 85% of the instructional days in any given academic year.

To say that science teachers in California are confused and perplexed by the mixture of messages that they are receiving about what, how much, and how to teach science would be an understatement. When the California science content standards were adopted and implemented in 1998, teachers’ first comments focused on the number of standards to be covered, the age appropriateness of the content, and the vast amount of detail that students were expected to “know”.  Their sense of being overwhelmed was only exacerbated when teachers realized, and in many cases were told, that science instruction was not considered a core content area. The significance of this decision lay in the fact that that if science was not considered part of the core curriculum, and if it was not going to be tested at every grade level, then it would not be taught at those levels. Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are seeing in many, if not most, elementary schools today. Science has been de-emphasized or eliminated from the core curriculum due to the fact that science test scores represent only 7 percent of an elementary school’s measure of Academic Progress Indicators (API).

The ultimate result of these factors is only now becoming clear. Students are beginning their first real exposures to science in the seventh grade. By this late date, they universally lack the six years of foundational science that is described in the standards, and that would engage students in thinking critically about the world, how it works, and how it applies to their lives.

In California, we talk about our technology-based economy. Our leaders promote the idea that a reinvestment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics will encourage more people to pursue STEM-based studies and careers, and that this reinvestment will ultimately return California and the nation to a leadership role in new and emerging fields of science, medicine, and technology. Yet current policies and practices have resulted in exactly the opposite effect. Enrollment in STEM majors, and the pursuit of science or STEM-based careers has failed to keep up with the national and worldwide demand for a scientifically literate population.

In California, we must explore ways to challenge the status quo and to promote more science instruction in schools. We must work to convince the decision makers and stakeholders that science is a key part of our future. We must be ready to invest the time and energy to promote high-quality instruction and assessment of science at all grade levels. Finally we must be willing to make the sacrifices that will be necessary to ensure that this vision of a return to a leadership role for California, and the nation, happens. To quote a friend, “The current emphasis on STEM careers and the emerging conversation about the need to regain our economic vigor has opened the door for science education by just a crack. As science education professionals, we can push the door open and enter the new age of science education in California or we can let the door shut. One moves us forward into the 21st century and the other will maintain a status quo born in the 1990s.”

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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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

WHO SHOULD ATTEND
If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

OVERVIEW
Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.

REGISTER

http://bit.ly/ACCELERATINGINTONGSS

DATES & LOCATIONS
MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. 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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

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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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.