September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

The First Steps for New Science Assessments Are Underway

Posted: Monday, August 4th, 2014

by Jessica L. Sawko

One group of stakeholders after two long days of discussions. This group included science teachers K-12, university educators, a parent representative, an industry representative (Janet Auer of Chevron), and CSTA Executive Director Jessica Sawko.

One group of stakeholders after two long days of discussions. This group included science teachers K-12, university educators, a parent representative, and an industry representative.

Approximately 200 science stakeholders participated in one of two two-day meetings in Sacramento on July 15-18, 2014. These stakeholder meetings were outlined and required in AB 484 as a part of the process to develop a plan for statewide assessments aligned to NGSS for California. CSTA was pleased to be a part of the process and recommended over 90 members for participation. Information about how many members actually participated is not available; however, there were many familiar faces at both meetings. CSTA applauds all the participants for taking two days away from their home, work, and families to participate in the meetings.

Educational Testing Services (ETS) facilitated the meetings. The large group was broken into smaller work groups to discuss, deliberate, evaluate, and ultimately make recommendations regarding

  • the grades in which science should be assessed;
  • what standards should be assessed (in other words, should a hypothetical grade 5 assessment assess only 5th grade standards or some or all of the earlier grades as well);
  • which years should the statewide assessments be used for federal accountability;
  • which types of assessments would best assess science learning for English learners;
  • and what types of items and test formats should be used.

It is important to note that no decisions were made at this meeting and the two meetings worth of recommendations will be compiled and analyzed. There will be an opportunity for the public at large to provide input into the assessment plan recommendation. ETS will be conducting an online survey (expected in the coming weeks). CSTA will send out a notification when the survey is available.

There are many possible next steps and the timeline is not firm. Probable next steps are:

  • CDE and ETS will compile the information gathered during the stakeholder meetings.
  • CDE, ETS, and CDE’s TAG will evaluate that information and other sources of information and develop a recommendation for the SSPI (State Superintendent of Public Instruction).
  • The SSPI will consider this recommendation and develop a proposal for the SBE (State Board of Education) to consider for the federally required science assessments to become a part of CAASPP (California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress). When this proposal will be presented to the SBE is to be determined. It could be as early as this fall; however, the legislation (AB 484) does not have a firm deadline.
  • The SSPI will provide a recommendation for science assessment (and other subjects) other than those required for federal compliance by March 2016 (per AB 484).

Stay tuned to CSTA and California Classroom Science for more information as this process develops and moves forward. In the meantime, if you are wondering which science assessments your students will be taking this spring…they will be the grade-level CST, CAPA, and CMA science assessments administered in grades 5, 8, and 10 until new tests aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards are implemented.

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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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

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.