January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Summer Reflections

Posted: Friday, June 29th, 2012

by Eric Lewis

In the past few weeks, I have led and attended a few workshops.  One thing that has been jumping out at me is our need to not only develop our content knowledge in science, but to also build upon our pedagogy so that we can really support ALL of our students to learn science.  I have had many, many conversations with teachers in my district (and beyond) over the past few years about the challenges of meeting the needs of the students in our classrooms.  That said, I’ve never been more convinced that the vast majority of my colleagues are really knowledgeable about their content.  Content knowledge, while extremely important, is NOT the real crux of what our experienced teachers need.  Sure, a few new labs and elegant experiments are great to add to your repertoire, but the professional development that we really need is in how to meet the needs of our students – especially when students may be arriving in our classes lacking the skills that we expected them to have.

In a leadership meeting that I recently attended at Stanford University, we repeatedly discussed how to improve the experience for students in our schools.  There was an acknowledgement that many issues are out of our control, but there was also a focus on identifying ways to meet the needs of our students.  Across our country, it seems that some teachers (and administrators and policy makers) have forgotten that teaching is an ART.  Teaching is perhaps the most difficult of professions – especially when done well.  Too often, however, we forget our charge of teaching “all” students.  I often hear things like, “Well, those students would be better served at that school,” or “Those students aren’t the type of students that do well here.”  Since when do teachers – at public schools yet – say which students belong at their school?  Why is it the student’s fault that he or she didn’t have the experiences in science, mathematics, and English that we would have wanted them to have before they showed up in our classroom?

The big issue I see is that we’ve really not been given the resources (think broadly here) to meet the needs of our students.  We’re told to differentiate for our students, but we really don’t have great examples of what this looks like day in and day out for a variety of different content areas.  And, our lack of experience and knowledge with differentiation is what often helps to promote many (not all) of our Honors tracks.  In too many cases Honors does not signify that students are getting increased rigor or challenge, it simply means that these students will get access to everything that the teacher had planned because there won’t be any behavior issues to distract from the work.  When I see this kind of tracking, it simply makes me sad.  As teachers, we should be better than that.  We should recognize that meeting the needs of a huge range of students is difficult and then we should do our best to prepare for this challenge.  We need to take this on directly and build our skills to provide a challenging and engaging curriculum for all students, not just our most “advanced” and “well-behaved” students that would – likely – be able to learn new materials even without an animated, engaged teacher in front of them.

We need to address the needs of all of our students.  Advanced students should be able to be challenged with deeper, more challenging readings, activities, and projects.  But, all students should have access to these things, too.  In my years of teaching, I have been surprised over and over again at seeing how students have risen to meet the challenges of difficult concepts and complicated problems.  We need to build upon our own resources as science teachers to craft lessons with multiple access points and with opportunities to reinforce learning in mathematics, English, art, and other disciplines.  We are so lucky that science lends itself to hands-on learning and to creative and critical thinking. The question now is how do we better prepare ourselves to bring these experiences to all our students, and not just the ones that came to us already prepared…

Well, first I recommend reviewing SDAIE strategies. These strategies are great for ALL of  our students, but will be especially beneficial for English Language Learners in class.  Next, talk to teachers in your special education department at your school.  These folks have been differentiating forever and we have a lot to learn from them.  In designing your schools, don’t be afraid to advocate for looping with students for more than one year and for providing robust advisories.  With both of these changes, more students will have deeper relationships with more teachers.  This is a good thing.  Finally, reflect on your practice.  Give yourself credit when you’ve done a great job and don’t be afraid to be critical of yourself if you see opportunities for growth.  We can all learn something new, can’t we?

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office and is CSTA region 2 director.

Written by Eric Lewis

Eric Lewis

Eris Lewis is high school area science support in the San Francisco Unified School District LEAD office.

2 Responses

  1. The resources available- especially your personal resources of time and energy – are finite and schools and districts are dealing with more and more budget issues which slowly wear down most programs. Meanwhile we live in a society which at a political and economic level only pays lip service to the value and needs of education. I don’t think hammering away with the phrase “We need to meet the needs of all of our students” is a useful one – its a powerful phrase and just like the phrase “No child left behind” its hard to argue with – it grabs the moral high ground – but its not useful to the classroom teacher. At the risk of being vilified by those who seek to grab the moral high ground I suggest a better working model would be that teachers commit to continuing to provide opportunities for growth for all students. I have been teaching 25 years and bottom line – you CANNOT meet the needs of all students – but you can always treat them with respect and if some kid who has been doing very little for months suddenly decides to try and turn it around – you can be there to encourage and support them in their efforts and tweak things a little so they can have some success.

  2. Thank you for the SDAIE strategies. I hope to make good use of them when I get a teaching job.

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Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. 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.