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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. 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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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