March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

State Superintendent Torlakson Visits CSTA President Elect Lisa Hegdahl’s Classroom to Shine a Spotlight on NGSS

Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

On April 21, 2015 State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson visited McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA. Galt is in Sacramento County about 30 minutes to the southeast of the city of Sacramento. Why the visit to McCaffrey? To shine the spotlight on the school, district, teachers, and students – all participants in the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. Superintendent Torlakson didn’t come alone, he attracted two local newspaper reporters, two video camera crews, and yours truly.

Elementary teachers Neika Estey (far left) and Leah Wheeler (seated next to Neika), participants in the K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative share their experience with integrating what they have learned thus far into their elementary classrooms.

Elementary teachers Neika Estey (far left) and Leah Wheeler (seated next to Neika), participants in the K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative share their experience with integrating what they have learned thus far into their elementary classrooms.

The day began with a meeting in the school library during which Superintendent Torlakson heard from elementary and middle school teachers in the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District actively participating in this first phase of the Initiative: Christa Dunkel, Jenne McGranahan, Christine Neal, Neika Estey, Leah Wheeler, and Lisa Hegdahl (CSTA President-Elect). Also participating in the presentation were Karen Schauer, the district superintendent, Ron Rammer, middle school principal, Barbara Woods, district science coach (CSTA Member), and two 8th grade students, Ariana Pamplona and Nicholas Picazo. Following the meeting, Superintendent Torlakson, the media, and others, in total about 20 people walked to Lisa Hegdahl’s 8th grade science classroom to observe the lesson for the day.

Guiding Question, Agenda, and Homework on Lisa Hegdahl's 8th Grade Science Classroom Whiteboard.

Guiding Question, Agenda, and Homework on Lisa Hegdahl’s 8th Grade Science Classroom Whiteboard.

Lisa and her students were several days into a Sun-Earth System Lesson Sequence. This sequence was developed by Lisa with assistance from Ron Rammer and Barbara Woods to address the NGSS Performance Expectation MS-ESS1-1: Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.  The guiding question that day was: What is the relationship between the sun and the Earth and how does this relationship impact temperatures on Earth? Lisa started with leading her students through a review of what they had discovered and learned through their lesson sequence prior to today. She then provided a data table of average temperatures throughout the year in the city of Galt, some basic instructions, and the materials that the students could use to develop their models. The materials included a styrofoam sphere on a stick and a flashlight in a small basket. In a manner that clearly showed the students familiarity with classroom protocols and group work the students quickly reconfigured their seats to sit in teams of four, gathered their materials, and got to work – all while 20+ strangers, two video cameras, and at least four other cameras watched their every move.

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Superintendent Torlakson joined one group of three students and Lisa, Principal Rammer, District Science Coach Barbara Woods, CDE Director of Professional Learning Support Carrie Roberts, Superintendent Schauer, and other educators in the room observed the student tables, asked questions of the students, and overall provided support. It was a good thing there were so many hands on deck to help with the students, as Lisa was pulled away several times during the student work time for a TV interview, newspaper interview, and other conversations with observers not familiar with NGSS.

The Superintendent’s visit ended with time for media questions and interviews in the library. During the interview Superintendent Torlakson expressed support for dedicated funding for new standards implementation that included support for teacher professional learning. He also gave a nod to CSTA for their work in advocating for science education in California.

The following is a slide show of images from the day (click on the photo to view the full size gallery):

The K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative 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, this Initiative is a fast-start demonstration project to build local education agency (LEA) capacity to fully implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in grades K-8.  Selected in a competitive application process, with input from expert reviewers, and funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the eight California districts are: Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, Kings Canyon Unified School District, Lakeside Union School District, Oakland Unified School District, Palm Springs Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Tracy Unified School District, and Vista Unified School District. The two California CMOs in the Initiative are Aspire and High Tech High, whose participation is funded by the Hastings/Quillin Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. (Source: WestEd)

Media coverage of this event included:

KCRA 3 News (local NBC affiliate): http://www.kcra.com/news/galt-school-district-first-in-state-to-test-new-science-standards/32495464

Galt Herald: http://www.galtheraldonline.com/articles/2015/04/22/feature_story/doc5537d27089f05964302006.txt

Cabinet Report: https://cabinetreport.com/curriculum-instruction/a-head-start-implementing-the-new-science-standards

Lodi News: http://www.lodinews.com/news/article_f4956d2c-e8bc-11e4-b31d-cbcd70eec39b.html

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

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