September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Survey Shows California Parents Want Science Ed a High Priority

Posted: Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

by Tom Chorneau, School Innovations & Advocacy Cabinet Report
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Close to nine out of ten California adults believe science instruction is nearly as important a component of K-12 education as reading, writing and arithmetic, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

Three quarters of those surveyed said that science should be a higher priority than it is today in most public schools to keep California and the U.S. globally competitive.

And two thirds also said that all high school students should be required to study biology, chemistry and physics.

The poll was sponsored by a consortium led by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning and Strengthening Science Education in California – a collaborative of researchers and educators.

The survey comes as the Obama administration has put greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education – also known as STEM. It also comes as school districts across the state continue to struggle with the largest fiscal crisis in generations that is forcing administrators and oversight boards to decide how to prioritize limited public funds.

Advocates for science instruction said they are heartened by the poll results.

“I am glad to see there is so much support out there for science education,” said Christine Bertrand, executive director of the California Science Teachers Association. “It’s significant that it’s not just us expressing support and it is not just the teachers saying it – it is parents who are saying it now and I just hope policy-makers will be listening.”

The survey is based on telephone interviews with 1,004 California adults taken over a two-week period ending April 22. Researchers also conducted a series of six focus groups to get a better understanding of participant views.

Rena Dorph, director of the Center for Research Evaluation and Assessment at the University of California, Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science – a partner in the poll’s development – noted that one interesting element of the poll found a lot of uncertainty among parents about the quality of existing science instruction.

Indeed, more than half of those surveyed who have children in school said they didn’t know if their child’s science teacher had been adequately prepared.

When asked to rate their child’s science teacher, about 6 percent of all parents with children in K-12 public schools gave their child’s teacher a top score of excellent.

About a third of all parents with kids in school gave their child’s science teacher a fair or good rating with another 5 percent saying their child’s science teacher was poor or very poor.

By far the greatest response – 33 percent among parents of elementary children and 32 percent among parents of high school students – said they did not know enough about their child’s teacher to have an opinion.

“Many parents don’t actually know much about what is happening in the schools,” said Dorph. “So when they make statements about the quality of certain aspects of their children’s school experience, these judgments are drawn from relatively limited information.”

That said, she pointed out, the people still care.

“The public really cares about science education,” she said. “In an era of accountability that is so focused on math and language arts, I think the public still understands the role that science learning plays in the growth development of their children.”

Eds. note: The full report can be found at http://www.cftl.org/documents/2010/2010SciCFTL4web.pdf.

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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

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

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. 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.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.