May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

U.S. Department of Education Denies 2nd Waiver Request – CA Officials Balk at Rejection and Affirms Commitment to Science Education

Posted: Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

Updated December 15, 2016

On Tuesday, December 13, 2016 California received a response to its revised science testing waiver application. It was not the one California had hoped for. In its second attempt to obtain a double-testing waiver that would allow California to discontinue the administration of the CST and the suspension from calculating and reporting of student test scores for two years, California clearly outlined the rationale to support the waiver request. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) continued to cite the need to publish science test scores for students in the name of transparency and monitoring student progress. CSTA President Lisa Hegdahl expressed disappointment in the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) decision to deny the waiver request.

“As a 26-year veteran educating 8th graders in California, I am perplexed by the rationale provided by the DOE to continue outdated testing of outdated standards to students who live in a world that has evolved significantly in the last 18 years,” Hegdahl said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst released a joint statement in response to the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of a waiver allowing California to suspend an outdated science assessment and instead give a modernized science test:

“We are deeply disappointed by the U.S. Department of Education’s denial of our waiver request. We reject their insistence that we double-test. We believe the denial of this request harms our students, who will be forced to study science based on state standards adopted in 1998 that are outmoded and not designed for the 21st century.” California educators know better than people in Washington, D.C., how best to serve our students. We have no time to waste when it comes to improving science education. California moves forward, not backward.”

Providing some direction to the science education community and California public school teachers, Superintendent Torlakson and State Board President Kirst reaffirmed the state’s commitment to deliver a pilot science assessment this spring (testing window is scheduled to open March 20, 2017): “California plans to move full-speed ahead implementing our new, computer-adaptive science assessment pilot in 2017 based on our new Next Generation Science Standards. The standards, our new online test, and our new science curriculum framework, which guides teachers, are all part of an exciting renaissance in science education in California designed to equip our students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st-century economy and college.”

CDE’s waiver request was supported by California Science Teachers Association, Children Now, The Education Trust-West, the National Science Teachers Association, and other supporters of science and STEM education in California.

So What Happens Next?

According to the denial letter from the DOE, California has until December 20, 2016, to request a hearing to appeal the decision. Reading the articles listed below, you get the sense that California officials are considering a variety of options, including waiting for the new Trump Administration.

CSTA will follow this issue closely and will keep members updated on any new progress. Stay tuned to us on Twitter (@cascience) and our Facebook Page for the most current updates.

For additional coverage of this issue see:

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

2 Responses

  1. Where California goes, so goes the nation. It has always been so. Adapt or become extinct; another way you can put it. Deeply disappointed in the DOE’s decision to stay in the 20th century and not let science leaders and innovators direct and dictate the standards towards which we are all clearly heading. Those in Washington, D.C. have obviously forgotten some basic science concepts. If you over stimulate the organism, it becomes tired, unresponsive, and shuts down. Let’s test for success not excess!

  2. Not sure why we follow the DOE’s edicts. They don’t give us money unless we are under performing schools or economically challenged. So why, as a whole, do we so eagerly do what they say?????? They don’t pay the budget, they don’t financially support California education.

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LATEST POST

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.