May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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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.