September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

The California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative Launches!

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Kathy DiRanna

To get a jump-start on the implementation in California of the Next Generation Science Standards, eight school districts and two charter management organizations (CMOs) have been selected to participate in the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. 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 will be 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. The Initiative begins its work August 4-8, 2014 with a weeklong Academy in Southern California.

The LEAs will engage with the K-12 Alliance in the Initiative over a four-year period to collaboratively develop and participate in leadership training for teachers and administrators, and in teacher professional development in content and pedagogy to meet the conceptual shifts required by NGSS. The participating districts and charters will form a CA NGSS Collaborative Network as a learning community for sharing best practices and addressing challenges of practice. In addition, the participating LEAs will serve as a “lab” to selectively beta-test NGSS-aligned instructional materials, implementation tools, and performance assessment prototype items. Learnings from these districts will be shared statewide to advance high-quality science teaching and learning.

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.

The districts and CMOs broadly represent the diversity of California schools in terms of demographics, location, and size. They were chosen based upon previous demonstrated commitment to science education, high capacity to begin implementing NGSS in 2014-15, and a commitment to implementing the CA NGSS Integrated Model for 6-8. Collectively, they will impact approximately 200,000 students.

The CA K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative will provide teachers and administrators with in-depth, content-rich professional development support from leaders in California’s science education community that have been deeply engaged with NGSS content from the beginning and have strong experience in the professional learning of science educators. In addition, through informal collaborations among the K-12 Alliance, Achieve, and others, the LEAs in the Collaborative will be given unique opportunities to be in the forefront of pilot testing new NGSS-aligned tools, processes, assessment item prototypes, and digital and other instructional materials to help the developers ensure their value to science educators. Charters and districts participating in this NGSS early implementers initiative will be paving the way and eventually serving as resources for NGSS implementation across California, and in other NGSS-adopting states as well.

For more information, contact Kathy DiRanna, Statewide Director, K-12 Alliance at WestEd, at or 714.812.0288.

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:

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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.