August 2014 – Vol. 26 No. 12

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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Introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards: A Paradigm Shift in Teaching & Learning – Two Locations

Posted: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

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.

This workshop is co-hosted by CSTA and CASCD – members of either organization may register at the member rate! Registration for the full day is only $90 if you register by the early bird deadline and includes lunch.

Participants will leave with:

  • An awareness of the NGSS and its Three Dimensions as they reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world
  • An awareness that the Performance Expectations will guide instruction and assessment
  • An awareness of how the NGSS is aligned with the Common Core State Standards
  • An awareness that the NGSS supports 21st Century Learning

Presenters: Jared Marr, Staff Development & Curriculum Specialist and Michelle French, Staff Development & Curriculum Specialist at the Tulare County Office of Education 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.

CSTA Night at the Aquarium

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Hosted by CSTA and the Aquarium of the Pacific, sponsored by Chevron.

Thursday, December 4, 2014, 7:00-10:00 PM

©Photo courtesy of the Aquarium of the Pacific. All rights reserved.

It’s a Night at the Aquarium! Unlike the movie by a similar name, we don’t need movie magic for this place to come alive at night. You will be surrounded by the amazing living creatures from the Pacific Ocean. See what they do at night (certainly not grading papers).

Join your CSTA colleagues and conference attendees for an amazing evening at the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Just steps away from the Convention Center and area hotels, the Aquarium will be all ours for the night. You will be able to wander through the aquarium, see sharks, touch rays, observe jellies, see the newly born penguins and all the other wonderful animals who make the LBAOP their home. 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.

Time for a New Start – Again!

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

It is early August as you read this. For lots of people, August means summer vacations. For educators, however, August means it is time to begin another school year. I tend to think of the start of the school year as New Year’s Eve. My husband, also an educator, and I toast the start of the school year in ways that most people toast the start of a new calendar year. We reflect on the past year and set goals for the year ahead. Just like New Year’s resolutions, the act of setting educationally related goals helps keep me on track. My New Year’s resolution of going to the gym five times a week may not pan out, but having committed to improve my level of physical activity has been clearly stated and set as a goal. Similarly, as I set my goals for the academic year I am making a commitment to do something to improve my practice, my skills, or content knowledge. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

Taking the Interactive Science Notebook Plunge

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Jill Grace

I kept hearing about it for years. THE NOTEBOOK. It sounded interesting, it had good research street cred, everyone seemed to rave about it, BUT…I was intimidated. What is up with the input-output stuff? Besides, I was already doing a good job teaching, right?

It wasn’t until one particular bunch of kids in one particular school year that I realized I NEEDED to take the plunge. It was no longer an option. It was a tough group that year. I found I was hitting my head against the wall trying to help some underachieving students be successful. I figured that if the “Interactive Notebook” (which I will refer to as IN) was good for improving the literacy of students learning English then it had to be beneficial for all students. Learn More…

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace teaches 7th grade science at Palos Verdes Intermediate School and is the Middle School/Jr. High Director for CSTA.

Are You Treating Your August Students Like June Students?

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Lisa Hegdahl

I enjoy my job. When someone mentions that summer is almost over, I imagine the well-behaved, cooperative students that will be joining my class, just like the ones that I said goodbye to in June. Except…the students who will enter my classroom in August are not the students from this past June. It’s easy to forget that those students were well-behaved and cooperative because I taught them to be that way. Learn More…

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is president-elect of CSTA.