May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

The Door Has Opened a Crack – Let’s Work Together to Push It Wide Open

Posted: Friday, November 4th, 2011

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

At this year’s California Science Education Conference our president Rick Pomeroy was able to express the thanks that many of us need to continue to express. Thanks to California Senator Loni Hancock for her work – her dedication – to SB 300 signed by Governor Brown on October 8. Thanks to Christine Bertrand, recently retired Executive Director of CSTA, who worked even after her retirement to see SB 300 through to the Governor’s desk. Finally, thanks to all of the CSTA members who made their voices heard about science education in California.

In case you were unable to express your voice or thanks it is not too late. Many of the letters to the Governor, that urged him signing SB 300, were from business or industry partners of educators across the state. No, this is not a CTE bill–it is referred to as the “Pupil instruction: instructional materials: content standards legislation.” In brief though what it does is move forward the updating of California’s science content documents for education and encourages the use of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the template for science standards that include engineering process, not just content, and parallels the more rigorous critical thinking and other 21st Century Skills seen in the math and reading/language arts California Common Core State Standards.

Those of you who know me know I tend to see things as half-full, and this is wonderful news to encourage science and all other educators. However, the issue is not over. So if you have the chance to express your support for rigorous, inquiry- and process-based science that is up-to-date for our students (Pre-K through high school), then speak up, please. While SB 300 requires the Superintendent (SPI) to present the new standards to the State Board of Education (SBE) by March 30, 2013, the SBE has the option to accept, modify, or reject the proposed standards. Additionally, the SBE and the SPI must present to the governor and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature a schedule and implementation plan for integrating the science content standards adopted. Please encourage them to do what is best for students, not just what’s affordable, but and investment in our future. Remind those you work with that we need to move education forward to serve our students now, and our society in the future.

As Herb Brunkorst, CSTA member and faculty member at CSU San Bernardino said:

“The door to the future of science education in California has opened a crack. We can let it shut and lose a chance for changing science education for the next 20 years, or we can push through it and move on to a new and exciting frontier.”

Please read over the language (below) that has opened this door. The door is open a crack, now is the time to realize that if we don’t encourage the best possible action now we lose our opportunity for a future where science education is of the quality our children deserve.


SECTION 1.  The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(a) It is widely acknowledged that California has the eighth largest economy in the world.

(b) California must develop scientifically and technologically literate citizens in order to maintain our edge in the world economy.

(c) The state’s current science content standards do not include any mention of biotechnologies or nanotechnologies, and they do not require pupils to learn about environmental issues or the fact that Pluto is no longer considered a planet.

(d) The state’s science content standards were developed in 1998 and are now 13 years old.

(e) There is nothing in current law that requires science content standards to be reviewed and updated.

SEC. 2.  Section 60605.85 is added to the Education Code, to read:

60605.85.  (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the state board shall adopt science content standards pursuant to the following requirements:

(1) The Superintendent, in consultation with the state board, shall convene a group of science experts. The Superintendent shall ensure that the members of the group of science experts include, but are not limited to, individuals who are elementary and secondary science teachers, schoolsite principals, school district or county office of education administrators, and university professors. The Superintendent and the group of science experts shall recommend science content standards for adoption to the state board and shall utilize the Next Generation Science Standards as the basis for their deliberations and recommendations to the state board.

(2) The Superintendent shall hold a minimum of two public meetings pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Article 9 (commencing with Section 11120) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code) in order for the public to provide input on the science content standards that would be recommended pursuant to paragraph (1).

(3) The Superintendent shall present the recommended science content standards to the state board on or before March 30, 2013.

(4) On or before July 30, 2013, the state board shall adopt, reject, or modify the science content standards presented by the Superintendent.

(5) If the state board modifies the science content standards presented by the Superintendent, it shall provide written reasons for its modifications in a public meeting. The state board shall adopt its modifications to the science content standards at a subsequent public meeting held no later than July 30, 2013. The public meetings required by this paragraph shall be held pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act (Article 9 (commencing with Section 11120) of Chapter 1 of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code).

(b) The Superintendent and the state board shall present to the Governor and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature a schedule and implementation plan for integrating the science content standards adopted pursuant to this section into the state educational system.

(c) This section shall remain in effect only until July 1, 2014, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is enacted before July 1, 2014, deletes or extends that date.


Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s secretary and chair of CSTA’s Legislative Oversight Committee.

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.

3 Responses

  1. In the 45 years I had been teaching I had seen four sets of standards go through. The first were content performance, then thematically based. The latest we have lived with was constructed by “experts” who were appointed not for their classroom skills but for their notoriety (Seaborg). One example is grade 7 standard on plants and animal structure function is ONE standard for at least a quarter’s work. When we tried to update those standards about after 12 years, we found the standards could only be changed by the legislature and we could only address the framework, how it was taught. The weaknesses still exist.
    My son runs a nanotechnology lab at UCLA. During the 7 years it took to build the lab arrangements required four changes to accommodate the new technologies. Change is fast.

  2. How about making science as important as language arts and math in the california state standards?

  3. […] of SB 300 authorizing the rewriting of the California science education […]

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and 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.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.