January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

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.

What Kind of Mind Do You Have?

Created and used with permission by Reid Wilson @wayfaringpath
icon from thenounproject.com

A growth mindset goes a long way. It’s really not healthy to be in a position of angst every day. In fact, the number one thing I still remember from my days of working as a marine biologist – stressed animals don’t survive. In contrast, despite hard circumstances, those that can show some resilience will be ok and may even thrive. The teachers I see thriving are doing so because they are willing to be open to change, open to growing, open to learning. Not one of these teachers has wiped the slate clean. In fact, as teachers, we come to the table with a tremendous background, education, and expertise.  We know our kids. We know what good teaching looks like and what it doesn’t look like. We all want to make sure our students leave our room prepared for the future. The teachers who are thriving are the ones who, in addition to this, are open to that next step – realizing there just might be something new to learn. You discover that in opening yourself up, not only do you grow as an educator, but it has a positive impact on the growth of your students too.

I learned a long time ago that one is a very powerful number. It’s powerful because, when faced with an onerous task at hand, “one” can make a difference. I first realized this when I would have teachers bring their high school students to an aquarium I worked at. We would be able to provide field experiences they couldn’t get within the walls of a classroom. For every interaction we had with students, we would try to help give students a perspective of their impact on the environment – whether they lived at the beach or miles away. It was high school kids, especially, that were the hardest bunch in this regard. These clever creatures would quickly realize the “problem” was quite large. Arms would fold, heads would tilt, and if I pressed, I would be told, “I’m just one person, I can’t possibly make a difference.” I would always smile and admit that I once attempted to pick up all of the trash I encountered from the door of my car to the door of the aquarium. It was hard, but it felt great until I was ready to go home that same night, and the path was filled with new trash. It would have been really easy to just give up and feel that the problem was too big. But then I had a crazy idea, what if I just did one thing? I would just pick up one piece of trash. Would that make a difference? We would all laugh that and admit that maybe it might not get tangled on or consumed by an animal, so maybe it might make a difference to just that animal but it was so small it couldn’t have much impact. Then I would admit that I had been doing that for a whole year. Each day, I picked up just one piece of trash a day. For 365 days. Did that make a difference? The kids eyes would widen. You see, I could handle “one” thing. If I forgot today, I’d pick up two tomorrow and not feel overwhelmed. So one person doing one thing – could actually made a dent and do so in a way that wasn’t overwhelming. I kept up that behavior and the next year I decided to stop using paper lunch bags – I could handle making one change. When that felt manageable, I weaned myself off plastic water bottles and switched to a reusable. Each time I got a handle on making one change, I knew I was ready for the next. It’s pretty uncomfortable and difficult to completely change everything right away. Applying this thinking to your classroom, it’s ok to just make one change today (maybe try to have your students engage in the practice of modeling, or see what happens to student thinking when Crosscutting Concepts are embedded in instruction), and when you feel you have a handle on that, try something else. Don’t forget about the power of one. It lets you move forward without feeling overwhelmed.

It’s important to remember that this is all about the kids. You teach students. Outside of parenting, I really can’t think of a more noble profession that one can undertake. You have the very special honor of being a trusted adult in the lives of kids who get to spend a whole year or a semester with you. You help shape their character, their worldview, their minds. It’s a very special relationship. You teach students. To students, science isn’t settled. To students, science isn’t necessarily important to their life. In fact, it’s hard for anything to feel more important than friendships, lunch, or even having to go home and help take care of siblings while Mom and Dad work two jobs. You have the unique opportunity to give the students you teach experiences where they can begin to develop and understand the importance of scientific thinking, can appreciate how science ideas come to be, and start to see the relevance of science in THEIR life. There will be those that fall in love and eventually jump onto a STEM-bound train and we will all celebrate and welcome them into our posse of geekdom. But for the rest, there is much at stake. When we solely view our profession as teaching science, and we forget to take into account the central notion that we teach students science and especially that we teach all students science, we run the risk of having a population grow up into adults with important roles (like parent, voter, employee of the month, or, dare I say, politician) that were just going through the motions in school, giving the answer the teacher wanted to hear, and never felt a part of the scientific enterprise or experienced science as a human endeavour to understand our world. For many of these individuals, they don’t just misunderstand but reject scientific thinking outright. I’ll let you use your imagination to fill in the rest…

There’s nothing easy about change. Watching teachers implement the NGSS these past couple years, I have seen the struggle. However, I have also seen amazing things happen when those same teachers are open to growing and learning, willing to make meaningful changes (even if it’s just one step at a time), and understanding that this isn’t about “me” or the science – it’s about the kids. These teachers are experiencing the greatest rewards. Data on student content understanding will eventually come once we have an operational assessment in place. Until then, I can share that one of the biggest outcomes has come in the form of increased student engagement.

Student engagement is powerful.

“A rich science education has the potential to capture students’ sense of wonder about the world and to spark their desire to continue learning about science throughout their lives. Research suggests that personal interest, experience, and enthusiasm—critical to children’s learning of science at school or in other settings—may also be linked to later educational and career choices” (NRC, 2012, pg 43)

We don’t need to wait for the state assessment to tell us that engaged students are more likely to engage in rigorous work, learn more, and close achievement gaps. This increase in student engagement has been so profound and widely described by teachers in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, that evaluators from WestEd will be studying it through the course of this academic year.

Keeping a growth mindset, remembering the power of one, and keeping it about the kids will get you far. The change is worth it, the payoff is beautiful, and I’m seeing kids engaged students generating solid knowledge constructs like never before. So to all of you this year, I applaud you for your hard work, dedication, and perseverance. I know your students do as well.

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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.

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California Science Test Academy for Educators

Posted: Thursday, February 15th, 2018

California Science Test Academy for Educators

To support implementation of the California Science Test (CAST), the California Department of Education is partnering with Educational Testing Service and WestEd to offer a one-day CAST Academy for local educational agency (LEA) science educators, to be presented at three locations in California from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. As an alternative to traveling, LEA teams can participate virtually via WebEx on one of the dates listed below.

The dates and locations for the CAST Academy are as follows:

  • Monday, April 23, 2018—Sacramento
  • Wednesday, April 25, 2018—Fresno
  • Thursday, April 26, 2018—Irvine

The CAST Academy will help participants develop a deeper understanding of the assessment design and expectations of the CAST. The academy also will provide information and activities designed to assist educators in their implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards and three-dimensional learning to help them gain an understanding of how these new science assessment item types can inform teaching and learning. The CAST Academy dates above are intended for school and district science instructional leaders, including teacher leaders, teacher trainers, and instructional coaches. Additional trainings will be offered at a later date specifically for county staff. In addition, curriculum, professional development, and assessment leaders would benefit from this training.

A $100 registration fee will be charged for each person attending the in-person training. Each virtual team participating via WebEx will be charged $100 for up to 10 participants through one access point. Each workshop will have the capacity to accommodate a maximum of 50 virtual teams. Each virtual team will need to designate a lead, who is responsible for organizing the group locally. Registration and payment must be completed online at http://www.cvent.com/d/6tqg8k.

For more information regarding the CAST Academy, please contact Elizabeth Dilke, Program Coordinator, Educational Testing Service, by phone at 916-403-2407 or by e‑mail at caasppworkshops@ets.org.

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.

Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. 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.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal 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.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. 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: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.