September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

What Do Teachers Do?

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Joseph Calmer

There is a quote from the newly published version of the California Framework:

“Teachers and administrators will not only have to consider a new context and programs, but they will need to think differently about their roles and their day-to-day work. The entire educational system will need to consider how to support these shifts throughout teacher and administrator careers (from pre-service to in-service) and how to implement policies and programs to support the transition from the awareness phase of the CA NGSS through and beyond the full implementation phase of the CA NGSS.” (Education, 2016)

This quote is something for us to reflect on. For a long time we’ve demonstrated to students how much we know and we simply were tasked with transmitting our knowledge to them. The Paulo Freire notion of “Banking Education” comes to mind as an analogy to this approach to education (Freire & Ramos, 2014). In his description of this model, teachers “deposit” knowledge to their students. The effect is that true learning does not occur. This model probably is not universally true, but the previous standards were written in such a way that it could occur, and often has.

The new California Framework wrote the standards in such a way that they will try to avoid the Freire Model of Education and approach something else. The standards are 3 Dimensional, aligned to the 5 E Model, and heavy on student thinking and action. In this situation, the student is tasked with demonstrating their knowledge to us, the teacher. That is the significant change in our work that is mentioned in the above quote. Before, we measured how much the students’ retainment of what we gave them. Now we need to measure their learning (outside of what we gave them). Our task is different. We can’t simply check for alignment of what a student’s knowledge is, compared to ours. The scenario is a true paradigm shift, from the every since of the word, is occurring in front of us and we need to change too. We are Copernicus trying to work in Ptolemy’s geocentric world. Our work, in our classrooms, has to change that drastically.

The work we need to do and our experience comes in at a different point than it once did. One of the great emerging tenets to come out of How People Learn is the concept of Expert vs Novice Learners (Bransford et al., 1999). As teachers, we are expert learners. Our work now is to turn novice learners into expert learners. The material we used to teach was good for an era that did not have super computers, smart phones, quantum computing, and a myriad of other things that make everything 5 years ago obsolete. This emergent technology makes resources and information available so conveniently, that we just need to learn how to use them as means rather than the ends themselves.



Our work, as science teachers etc., will have to change. This work is just beginning. I really like the NGSS standards. I have had to realize that I can’t teach the same way or salvage any old practices. I need to work in a way that will make my classroom a place for learning experiences to emerge. Sometimes that aligns with pacing plans and Common Summative Assessments, sometimes it doesn’t. I have to make a choice: What’s more important getting students to pass a 60 question multiple choice test and “get on schedule” or manage the learning something of value beyond the quarter? As an expert on pedagogy, I can read the room and see what emerges. I have seen the power of using phenomena to drive instruction, that means sometimes going off schedule and introducing new things that emerge. The work of teaching is fundamentally different from an accountant (no criticism, just illuminating a difference in skill sets). When your classroom starts next year what type of work are you going to do?


Bransford, J., Pellegrino, J. W., Donovan, S., ebrary, I., National Research Council. Committee on Learning, R., & Educational, P. (1999). How people learn: bridging research and practice. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Education, C. D. o. (2016). 2016 Science Framework Retrieved from

Freire, P., & Ramos, M. B. (2014). Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition: Bloomsbury Publishing.

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:

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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.