May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2013 Finalists for Prestigious National Teaching Award

Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated five outstanding secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2013 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

The science nominees are Amanda Alonzo (CSTA Member), a biology teacher at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Union High School District, Santa Clara County; and Scott Holloway, a physics teacher at Westlake High School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District, Ventura County.

Both Amanda and Scott will be provided with a complimentary registration to the 2013 California Science Education Conference in Palm Springs will be honored at the Awards Breakfast during the conference.

The math nominees are Marianne Chowning-Dray, an Algebra II and trigonometry teacher at Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, San Mateo County; Michelle Rene Katz, an Advanced Placement (AP) calculus teacher at Northridge Academy High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Los Angeles County; and Andrew Walter, a pre-calculus teacher at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County.

“These remarkable teachers and their colleagues around the state play a central role in preparing students for college or career,” Torlakson said. “Science and math education is crucial not only to our students’ futures, but also to California’s future as a leader in innovation and opportunity. All students need a solid foundation in these rapidly expanding fields to succeed in a global economy.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partnered 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. Each applicant must demonstrate a mastery of math or science, appropriate use of instructional methods and strategies, effective use of assessment strategies, lifelong learning, and leadership in education outside the classroom. Each candidate also was required to submit a 45-minute video lesson in support of their application. State finalists were selected by a review panel of their peers who reviewed each candidate’s content knowledge, pedagogical effectiveness, achievement results, and professional involvement.

Science Finalists

Amanda Alonzo is a biology teacher at Lynbrook High School in the Fremont Unified School District in San Jose, where she has taught since 2002. In addition to teaching biology and human physiology courses, Alonzo also coaches students who compete in the International Science and Engineering Fair—20 of whom have been named “outstanding finalist.” Recently, Alonzo began an integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research course that is open to any student in grades nine through twelve. Students design an original STEM research project and then work with Alonzo to carry it out. Alonzo has a Bachelor of Arts in Human Biology from Pitzer College and a Master of Arts in Science Education from Stanford University. Her video focused on a ninth-grade biology course, and her lesson topic was “Evidence to Support the Theory of Evolution and Alternative Argumentative Essays.”

Scott Holloway is a physics teacher at Westlake High School in the Conejo Valley Unified School District, where he has taught for five years. Prior to coming to Westlake High, Holloway taught chemistry in the Los Angeles Unified School District for nine years. When he arrived at Westlake High, only 13 students enrolled for AP Physics, and the district discussed eliminating the course. In 2012-13, 150 students registered for the AP Physics course, and his students had a pass rate on the rigorous AP exam of 98 percent. Holloway’s students also are active in the American Association of Physics Teachers Physics Olympiad and the regional Physics Bowl. Holloway advises the campus Robotics Club, which has been successful in regional competitions. Holloway holds a Master of Arts in Science Education from California State University, Northridge; a Single Subject Credential in Physics from the same institution, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His video lesson focused on “angular accelerations due to torques acting on the object and dependent upon the moment of inertia.”

Mathematics Finalists

The first mathematics finalist, Marianne Chowning-Dray, has 22 years teaching experience and has taught at the private Eastside College Preparatory School since 2007. Eastside College Preparatory educates students historically underrepresented in high education. Chowning-Dray also has taught in public schools in Palo Alto, California; Mercer Island, Washington; and Essex Junction, Vermont. She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she earned her master’s in the Stanford Teacher Education Program, and Smith College. In her video lesson, Chowning-Dray taught about the radian measure of an angle.

The second mathematics nominee, Michelle Katz, is a founding math teacher at Northridge Academy High School, a comprehensive high school that opened in 2004 in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and is operated in partnership with California State University, Northridge. Katz has received National Board Certification and has devoted her teaching career to the LAUSD, which she joined in 1992. She is a graduate of California State University, Northridge, where she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. In her video lesson, Katz demonstrated multiple mathematical formulations for expressing rates of change over time.

The third mathematics finalist, Andrew Walter, teaches mathematics at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the Stockton Unified School District, where he has worked for 20 years. Walter currently serves as the school’s Mathematics Department Chair and also serves as a Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) advisor for pre-engineering students at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Walter emphasizes innovative thinking and mathematical and engineering principles. Walter holds a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of the Pacific and a Master of Science in Integrating Technology from Walden University. In his video lesson, Walter linked academic language to equations, graphs, derivatives, and limits.

The National Science Foundation administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. PAEMST was enacted by Congress in 1983 and authorizes the President each year to bestow up to 108 awards. PAEMST awards primary and secondary teachers in alternate years. Awards are given to mathematics and science teachers from each of the 50 states and four U.S. jurisdictions including Washington, D.C.; Puerto Rico; Department of Defense Schools; and the U.S. territories.

Since the program’s inception, 84 California teachers have been named PAEMST recipients. Please visit the PAEMST Web site for additional information. (Please note that the 2012 national recipients have yet to be announced.)

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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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.