October 2014 – Vol. 27 No. 2

State Superintendent Tom Torlakson Proposes New Statewide Testing System

Posted: Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Common Core Assessments to Focus on Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today recommended shifting the focus of standardized testing in California to require students to think critically, solve problems, and show a greater depth of knowledge—key tenants of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In a report to the Governor and Legislature, Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, Torlakson made a dozen recommendations that would fundamentally change the state’s student assessment system, replacing the paper-and-pencil based Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program assessments with computerized assessments developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) starting in the 2014‒15 school year.

“Multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests alone simply cannot do the job anymore, and it’s time for California to move forward with assessments that measure the real-world skills our students need to be ready for a career and for college,” Torlakson said.

“As a teacher, what’s most exciting is that these new tests will serve as models for the kind of high-quality teaching and learning we want in every classroom every day,” Torlakson continued. “The concept is simple but powerful: if our tests require students to think critically and solve problems to do well on test day, those same skills are much more likely to be taught in our classrooms day in and day out.”

Torlakson’s report was mandated by Assembly Bill 250 (Brownley, D-Santa Monica), which the State Superintendent sponsored, to bring school curriculum, instruction, and the state assessment system into alignment with the CCSS. The state’s existing STAR Program assessments are scheduled to sunset July 1, 2014.

California is one of 45 states and three territories that formally have adopted the CCSS for mathematics and English‒language arts. The proposed revisions to align the state’s assessment system with the new standards mark a key milestone in implementing the Common Core.

California serves as a governing state in SBAC, a multistate‒led group that has been working collaboratively to develop a student assessment system aligned with the CCSS.

The SBAC was designed to meet federal- and state-level accountability requirements and provide teachers and parents with timely and accurate information to measure and track individual student growth.

Among the 12 recommendations is the suspension of particular STAR Program assessments for the coming school year unless the exams are specifically mandated by the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or used for the Early Assessment Program (EAP). This would suspend STAR testing of second graders and end-of-course exams at the high-school level.

Torlakson also recommends that the state provide formative diagnostic tools developed by SBAC to all schools, which would provide teachers and schools with the option of receiving continuing informal feedback on the progress of students throughout the school year.

As required by AB 250, Torlakson’s recommendations reflect an assessment system that would meet the requirements of the current ESEA. But the report also puts forth several different approaches of assessment and urges policymakers to question the current regimen of testing all students, every year, in English‒language arts and mathematics.

Through work group meetings, focus groups, regional public meetings, a statewide survey, and an e-mail account specifically for public comments, thousands of stakeholders provided input to the California Department of Education regarding the state’s transition to a new assessment system.

“I extend my gratitude to the many teachers, school administrators, parents, students, business leaders, and higher education faculty for their expertise and experience that contributed to the formation of these recommendations, Torlakson said.

Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System can be found on the Statewide Pupil Assessment System Web page. More information on California’s efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards can be found on the California Department of Education’s Common Core State Standards 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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Last Days to Register for Amazing Pre-Conference Field Trips

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

October 31, 2014 is the last day to register for one of two amazing pre-conference field courses being offered by CSTA. The field courses will take place on Wednesday, December 3, the day before the NSTA Long Beach Area Conference.

2014 Long Beach Area Conference — CSTA Pre-Conference Field Courses

Marine Science Adventures on Catalina Island

© Anne Maben – Photo courtesy of CSTA member Anne Maben.

Located on Catalina Island just 20 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Big Fisherman’s Cove is the site of the famed USC Wrigley Marine Science Center, an international research and teaching facility. After a general tour of the facilities and touch tanks, teachers will participate in an ecology and island history walk and hear the latest research on sharks from world-renowned expert, Dr. Chris Lowe. Teachers will also tour and learn about the hyperbaric chamber that saves divers’ lives and explore tiny critters in the plankton lab. Participants may jump into a wetsuit and enjoy a guided snorkeling tour in pristine kelp beds, under the guidance of USC dive instructors or venture on a guided kayak tour off the beautiful coast of Catalina. What a day! Please wear slacks, close-toed shoes, a jacket, sunscreen and bring a bathing suit and towel if you plan to snorkel or kayak – cameras, binoculars and hats are a big plus! If you are prone to seasickness, please bring medication.

Wednesday, December 3, 6:30am – 5:30 pm

CSTA Member/Nonmember Fees: $60/$75 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.

Sessions for All Grade Bands and Disciplines at NSTA Conference on Science Education in Long Beach

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Here are some of the many exciting events you can expect at the NSTA Area Conference on Science Education in Long Beach this December 4–6:

Register today for the most savings! Our Earlybird Deadline ends October 24.  – Remember CSTA members: Select the “NSTA Affiliate Member Rate” when registering to save $90 on registration.

Register 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.

NGSS Science & Engineering Showcase – Call for Proposals

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

CSTA Members: You are invited to submit a proposal to showcase your classroom-tested NGSS, STEM, or Engineering unit, lesson, or project at the CSTA Night at the Aquarium. Submit a proposal for the Showcase today and share your experience with your colleagues. Showcase presenters receive a free ticket to the event! Submit a proposal today!

Proposals will be accepted September 24 – October 20. Notifications regarding the status of proposals will be distributed via email on October 27, 2014.

Proposal Guidelines and Information:

  • You must be a member of CSTA to submit a proposal.
  • We are looking for educators who can showcase an engineering/STEM/NGSS unit, lesson(s), or project that directly apply to classroom instruction. Preference will be given to those proposals that integrate the three dimensions of NGSS.
  • You will be provided with a 6’ table top.
  • You are expected to post your handouts on the event’s Edmodo site. This must be done a week prior to the event.
  • The evening will be divided into two, 90 minute “shifts.” Each shift will allow for 20 minutes of set-up, 60 minutes for “presentation,” and 10 minutes for clean-up. If accepted, your showcase will be assigned to one shift, allowing you the other 90 minutes to enjoy the evening’s events as a participant.
  • If possible, bring hands-on supplies/manipulatives (not handouts) or examples (videos, photos, student work, other) for attendees to see/use during your discussions.

Submit a proposal today

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.

Call for Nominations for the 2015-2017 CSTA Board of Directors

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

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 implementation planning for the Next Generations Science Standards and implementing its new strategic plan. If you are interesting in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration.

Nominations for the following positions on the CSTA Board of Directors are now being accepted:

Directors (with the exception of the president-elect) will serve a two-year term beginning July 1, 2015, and ending June 30, 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.

NGSS PD Coming to Fairfield and Walnut

Posted: Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

CSTA_CASCD

CSTA and CASCD have teamed up to bring you and your curriculum developers a one-day professional learning opportunity. Both CSTA and CASCD members may register at member rates. Event dates and location are:

Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching and Learning
This full-day workshop will highlight the many shifts required of both teachers and learners under the Next Generation Science Standards. In the morning session, participants will engage in an overview of the NGSS and its Three Dimensions. During the afternoon sessions, participants will be invited to experience either a K-5 or 6-12 session. Each of these sessions will further explore the NGSS with an emphasis on the impact it will have within K-5 and 6-12 classrooms. 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.