September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Greatness by Design, Task Force’s Comprehensive Report on Supporting Outstanding Teaching

Posted: Monday, September 10th, 2012

SACRAMENTO—In a new report, a group of California’s leading education experts formed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called for sweeping improvements to the way teachers are recruited, trained, brought into the profession, mentored, and evaluated.

“This is the most comprehensive look our state has taken at California’s most important profession—teaching—in a generation,” said Torlakson, who created the 48-member Task Force on Educator Excellence in January in partnership with theCommission on Teacher Credentialing External link opens in new window or tab. (CTC). “We are blessed to have many outstanding educators already in our classrooms. And every child deserves a great teacher, one who cares for children today and helps prepare them to contribute to the society and economy of the 21st century.

“Today’s report—grounded in research, best practices from our state and around the world, and the realities of California’s classrooms—charts a path to reach that goal.”

Torlakson formed the Task Force to address fundamental questions about the education profession: how to recruit the best people into the profession, how to develop their skills before they begin work and throughout their careers, and how to provide useful feedback, including using measurements of learning to improve teaching.

“The Task Force has given us a clear, coherent vision for the development of high-quality educators—a vision with real potential to improve teaching and learning for all of California’s students,” said Mary Vixie Sandy, Executive Director of the CTC. “Working together, we can shape the preparation and development of teachers and leaders so that they can inspire and support our young people to reach their highest potential.”

The Task Force was co-chaired by two widely recognized education leaders: Stanford University’s Linda Darling-Hammond, Ph.D. External link opens in new window or tab. and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser External link opens in new window or tab. of the Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest district in California. The group included parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and business and community leaders, as well as leading academics. Torlakson said he would assign the California Department of Education’s (CDE) Chief Deputy Superintendent Richard Zeiger, and Deputy Superintendent of Instruction and Learning Support Lupita Cortez Alcalá to work with education leaders across the state to implement the report’s recommendations.

The 90-page report, Greatness by Design: Supporting Outstanding Teaching to Sustain a Golden State (PDF; 4MB), addresses the recruitment of new teachers, including the need to develop a diverse, high-quality workforce of teachers and principals. It also examines quality induction programs that can help teachers improve early in their careers—often the key to keeping promising new teachers in the classroom.

The group’s report also looks closely at the kind of ongoing training and support teachers need throughout their careers, including linking professional learning expectations to the certification renewal process.

The report thoroughly examines how to provide a career development framework that fosters growth and leadership opportunities for teachers throughout their careers. It also takes a close look at how to improve the evaluation process, including how to collaborate with teachers and incorporate valid measures of student learning.

“The most successful evaluation systems are those that rely upon research-based best practices to help teachers and administrators improve their craft,” said Steinhauser, a 30-year veteran educator known for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps in a challenging school district. “Collaboration is key to developing these systems, with all parties focused on the ultimate goal of improving student achievement.”

“Around the world, there is growing recognition that expert teachers and school leaders are the most important school resources for improving student learning, and that the highest-achieving nations invest intensely in teaching quality,” said Darling-Hammond, who also serves as vice-chair of the CTC. “California cannot—and should not—do any less. This report describes how we can work strategically to build a world-class educator workforce in all of California’s communities.”

The report opens with a message from Torlakson, himself a teacher, who notes that budget cuts, difficult working conditions, and other factors have made teaching “a profession under siege.”

“The good news is that California is home to some of the very best ideas and research on how to train new teachers and principals, support them from their first days in the classroom to their last, and give them the kind of feedback they need to be even better,” Torlakson said. “The challenge, and therefore the opportunity, is to revive and expand these isolated and sometimes neglected experiments and weave them together with new, research-based ideas into a system that forms a coherent whole that produces exceptional results.”

The report’s findings and recommendations are summarized in the full report available online at the CDE Educator Excellence Task Force Web page.

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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually 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. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.