September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

The Next Generation Science Standards Were Released – What’s Next?

Posted: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

by Laura Henriques

On April 8th, 2013, Achieve released the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards. Last week three in-person and one online town hall meetings took place across the state. These meetings allowed stakeholders to provide input and feedback about the standards to the California Department of Education. The Superintendent’s Science Expert Panel will review all of the input collected via these hearings and provide guidance to the State Superintendent.

Subsequently, in July the State Board of Education will hear a recommendation from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson. At this point, SSPI Torlakson is leaning towards new California Standards that will be based on the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards. Once new standards are adopted, a new California Science Framework will be written that reflects input from stakeholders with an emphasis on the application of the standards to California. During the July State Board of Education meeting there will once again be opportunity for public comment, limited to two minutes of spoken comments or longer written comments submitted in advance of the meeting. At that time CSTA will provide testimony representing the views of our members. As you can read in Rick Pomeroy’s article this month, data from our members indicate strong support for the standards tempered with concerns about implementation, professional development and assessment. At this point in the NGSS process, the focus is on adoption of the standards. The implementation, PD, instructional materials and assessment development are all important pieces, but they come next.

By November 2013 the State Board will deliver its decision regarding adoption of NGSS.  It will only be at that point that the state will begin to write the new California Science Framework and begin to look at curricular materials and assessments. Assuming that the new standards are adopted in November 2013, California science teachers will not be expected to implement NGSS until 2014-2015 at the earliest, and assessments linked to NGSS will not be available until later than that.

You may not want to wait until 2014 to start implementing some of the changes incorporated into NGSS, however. Our current standards focus on students knowing the content while the new standards ask students to do more. In addition to knowing the content, they will be expected to analyze and interpret data, develop models that predict and describe, and construct and present arguments using evidence to support claims. NGSS has an explicit link between the doing science and knowing science. That is an exciting shift that will get our students delving deeper into the content, making connections and applying what they learn. While some of us may already have classrooms where students are regularly engaged in the science and engineering practices, this will be a shift for others. Starting to try out some of these practices next year can help us get a head start on the full implementation.

There are lots of ways you can become more familiar with NGSS. If you are reading the articles and blogs on the CSTA website you are keeping abreast of the changes. It’s possible, though, that some of your teaching colleagues are not. Please share this information with them. Below are some options to help you and your colleagues continue to be ahead of the curve.

The CSTA conference in October will have lots of sessions connecting NGSS to the Common Core in addition to workshops which showcase activities which illustrate NGSS science and engineering practices.
•    You can nominate yourself to serve on an instructional materials review team.
•    Sign up to receive news about NGSS (and related workshops) on the CDE’s NGSS listserv.
•    Visit the CSTA’s NGSS website. This includes links to workshops, FAQs and related materials as well as links to the NGSS website and NSTA’s NGSS resources.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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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.