September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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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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.