April 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 8

Time for a New Start – Again!

Posted: Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

It is early August as you read this. For lots of people, August means summer vacations. For educators, however, August means it is time to begin another school year. I tend to think of the start of the school year as New Year’s Eve. My husband, also an educator, and I toast the start of the school year in ways that most people toast the start of a new calendar year. We reflect on the past year and set goals for the year ahead. Just like New Year’s resolutions, the act of setting educationally related goals helps keep me on track. My New Year’s resolution of going to the gym five times a week may not pan out, but having committed to improve my level of physical activity has been clearly stated and set as a goal. Similarly, as I set my goals for the academic year I am making a commitment to do something to improve my practice, my skills, or content knowledge.

Pause to reflect on the past year
Nikki Bailey’s article  mentions the importance of recharging your batteries and reflecting on past practice. By the end of the school year we are all tired. Taking some time away from planning, teaching, and grading is important, but so too is the act of reflection. What is working well in our classrooms? Which aspects of NGSS have we started to implement and how is that going? What colleagues might you work with this coming year to plan innovative science and STEM lessons? In order to move forward and improve we need to know where we’ve been and what we have learned. This makes it much easier for us to replicate the good things in our classroom and eliminate the less effective.

Consider Areas for Personal and Professional Growth
Learn more about NGSS.
I am hopeful that all science educators will be making this an area for professional growth. The NGSS are adopted, the state has developed an implementation plan (the public feedback period is now open), the Instructional Quality Commission has put together the Science Curriculum Framework team and the California Department of Education is at work discussing what science assessment will look like for California. This is a lot of change and it comes on top of the implementation of Common Core. We cannot sit back and wait for a few years before seriously digging into NGSS. Please read about what’s going on and attend workshops, conferences and state-wide symposium. This fall there will be the Superintendent’s STEM Symposium in San Diego Sept 21-23, state-wide NGSS Roll-Out workshops and the NSTA/CSTA conference in Long Beach December 3-6, and check out the NGSS section of the CSTA website. It is one of the most comprehensive sites for California specific NGSS information.

Some of us will have new roles in the fall.
Perhaps you will be having a student teacher, causing you to take on the role of Master Teacher. Maybe you are about to become a department chair or TOSA or site administrator. Perhaps you will be a BTSA Coach. Serving in new roles is exciting but it comes with challenges. As you move into new positions seek out mentors for yourself.

If you will be serving as a Master Teacher for a student teacher you will find the road ahead challenging but hugely rewarding. You will need to relinquish control, help a novice teacher learn the ropes, and make their thinking about teaching visible to the newbie teacher in their classroom. This takes time but it is among the most important things you can do to help our profession. As you nurture and support a new teacher you are helping build our profession. Thanks in advance for your work and effort to support the state’s student teachers. It’s a really important task. It can also be daunting if this is your first time in the role. Megan McKenzie, Corey Lee, Yukako Kawakatsu, and Rick Pomeroy share strategies about how to prepare for hosting a student teacher. Many of the tips and strategies they share will be helpful even if you do not have your own student teacher. Your department or school may have hired a new teacher in your department or school this year. You do not need to be the official “Master Teacher” or BTSA Support Teacher to provide a helping hand. CSTA’s 2007 journal about helping new teachers succeed and thrive is a useful resource. Take some time to consider how you can help your more novice teachers be successful.

Set goals for the coming year and figure out how to make them a reality
New strategies for the classroom.

In the last few weeks of summer, you might want to plan how you will implement a new strategy. I know lots of us participated in some sort of science education professional development this summer. While we cannot implement everything we learned all at once, we can and should think about which strategies and content we can introduce into our repertoire.

This month, CSTA Middle School/Jr. High Director Jill Grace writes about how to implement interactive notebooks. It’s full of great ideas and tips about how to get started and manage notebooking in your classroom.

CSTA Primary Director Valerie Joyner  provides suggestions about how to build a culture for science instruction at the primary level and how to set up your classroom for successful science at that level. She urges us all to consider how we can help every child get science instruction every day – talk about a great goal!

Never forget the importance of setting routines and helping your students learn how to be successful in your classroom. Lisa Hegdahl reminds us that the students who start the year with us need to learn our routines, procedures and expectations and it is our job to help them with that. Those basics need to be addressed first and then we will be well poised to try out some of the new teaching strategies we learned and read about this summer.

Set your goals and get involved!
As you think about what you need to help you grow as a science educator and a science advocate, think about how CSTA can play a role. I know the year ahead will be filled with opportunities to participate in the state’s transition to NGSS. This includes providing feedback to the Science Framework Committee and providing input to the state about science assessments moving forward. There were two 2-day meetings hosted by the California Department of Education and ETS [link to Jessica’s article] related to this and a call for public input will be sent out soon, so be sure your membership settings allow you to get emails from CSTA about these sorts of issues! Finally, the state’s NGSS Implementation Plan will be brought to the State Board of Education in November and you now have an opportunity to provide your thoughts about that as well. CSTA is a great source of information for all things NGSS. Your membership dollars support our efforts to keep you informed and engaged. If your membership has lapsed, now is the perfect time to renew. Not only does your membership support CSTA’s NGSS related efforts, it keeps you involved and provides you with member discounts on the conference, professional development opportunities and more.

As we wind down summer and ramp up for a new school year I hope you can take time to reflect on what worked well for you this past year, think about how to implement some of the new things you’ve learned this past year and summer, and set goals to push yourself to be the best science educator you can be. Happy New Year!

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

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Legislative Action Alert – ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization

Posted: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

CSTA’s counterparts at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has been actively representing the voice of science teachers in Washington D.C. This morning they sent out this call to action:

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are currently working to reauthorize (rewrite) No Child Left Behind. Please contact your members of Congress immediately, and ask them to make STEM education a national priority. At the Legislative Action Center of the STEM Education Coalition website, you can send a letter to your elected representatives, asking them to

  • Maintain a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
  • Continue the focus on math and science as required elements of any state’s accountability system.
  • Provide states with dedicated funding to support STEM-related activities and teacher training.

It is urgent that educators take a moment to write to your elected officials, and send this message to colleagues and networks in your school or district.

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.

Science Assessment & Accountability Update – FAQs Included

Posted: Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

by Jessica Sawko

On March 31, 2015 participants from the Science Assessment Stakeholder Meetings held in July 2014 were invited to participate in a follow up meeting to provide input on what a formative component, a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Digital Center, should look like for California. This NGSS Digital Center could include formative assessment tools similar to that of the Smarter Balanced Digital Library for ELA and mathematics. This meeting will take place at the end of April 2015. This is very exciting news as it gives some insight to the direction the state may take with the future statewide assessment system to support the Next Generation Science Standards.  Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

Where Are the Women in STEM? What Can We Do to Support and Retain Them?

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Laura Henriques

Women are far less likely than men to earn pSTEM (physical Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) degrees or work in the field. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has gotten a bit of press lately. US News and World Reports had an article highlighting a Clinton Foundation Report showing women in developing countries have less access to cell phones (and therefore the internet) than men. This results in decreased access to health care, fewer job options, a lack of flexibility with work and childcare related issues, and a lowered sense of empowerment. That article linked to several other articles about the lack of diversity in STEM fields in the US, the leaky pipeline and more. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

Strategies for Assessing Student Understanding in the NGSS Classroom

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Sara Dozier

Like me, you are probably excited about the opportunities that the Next Generation Science Standards offer students and teachers. For the first time in 17 years, our science standards are asking us to engage our students in science learning that is engaging, meaningful and just plain fun. In addition to our excitement, though, there is also some apprehension. 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.

Fostering Metacognition Through Assessment

Posted: Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

by Jill Grace

Assessment…

When I ponder that word, I am flooded with various – shall I say – feelings. And these feelings are deep-rooted feelings. On one hand, as a teacher, assessment is simply the cornerstone of understanding how my students are doing from beginning to end of instruction. Building a classroom culture where students are expected to have conversations about content provides me with a special window to listen in – are they getting it? I don’t need to give a quiz or a test, I just need to listen. I often look over their shoulders, peering into their personal thinking as they describe what they understood in their science notebook. I assess constantly, daily, by the minute just by being present walking around the classroom. Learn More…

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace teaches 7th grade science at Palos Verdes Intermediate School and is the Middle School/Jr. High Director for CSTA.