May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

What Lies Ahead for Science Ed.?

Posted: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

by Christine Bertrand

As teachers tasked with teaching science know, the last few years have not been kind to science education.  Especially in the elementary grades, as policymakers at the state and federal levels have ratcheted up the consequences for districts not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP) in their math and reading scores, less and less science has been taught.  With the increase in teacher layoffs due to the state’s terrible budget situation, even secondary schools are seeing fewer science course offerings.

And as regular readers of California Classroom Science are aware, state policymakers halted the entire instructional materials adoption process, including the revision of the science framework that was due to be completed this year.  Is there any reason to hope for changes in the coming year?

With the election of a new governor, we might be able to expect a more open response to some of the legislation we’ve worked on in the past which had been vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In just the last year, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have: 1) required the state science content standards to be reviewed and revised (remember, the standards are now 13 years old, and there is nothing in current law that requires them ever to be revised; this was the third time the governor vetoed such legislation); 2) required an evaluation of the STAR testing program prior to its reauthorization in 2011; 3) strengthened STEM (science, engineering, technology, and math) courses and efforts; 4) restarted the development of the stalled science framework (actually, he eliminated funding for this; it was not legislation that he vetoed).

Beyond these very concrete examples of science-unfriendly actions on the part of the former governor, his appointments to the powerful State Board of Education, the body that determines most of the state’s education policy, have been overwhelmingly charter school advocates who have not always understood the detriment to a well-rounded education that their decisions have wrought.  When the state board decides how much weight on the Academic Performance Index (API) will be given to each subject tested, they have also automatically determined for parents and school administrators how important each subject is and, consequently, which subjects are, well, not all that important.

Within the first months of the new governor’s term, he will have the opportunity to appoint seven new state board members out of the total of 11 members, this through the expiration of some members’ terms, but also because some Schwarzenegger appointees have never been confirmed by the state Senate.  There is hope that new state board appointees will take a more holistic approach to decision-making and better understand the real consequences of their decisions on students.

Additionally, our new state Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, is himself a former science teacher.  In our dealings with Mr. Torlakson when he was in the legislature, we always found him to be supremely concerned with the narrowing of the curriculum and the de-emphasis on science education.  Indeed, Mr. Torlakson was the author of many of the science-related bills we worked for and, in some cases, co-sponsored.  We believe we can expect a strong ally in the Department of Education with Mr. Torlakson in that position.

As always, keep checking California Classroom Science and the CSTA website ( for the latest news as the new year progresses.

Christine Bertrand is executive director of CSTA.

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.

8 Responses

  1. t-lymphocyte on a red blood cell

  2. So hope your assessment of the legislative atmosphere change is correct. Thanks for all you do to keep us current. I will be sharing your update with a group of powerful women – the Relate-Ed book club, formed to share ideas and information related to education. We are sharing ed legislation our next meeting.

    Sue Boudreau

  3. Christine, could you also let us and me know how to best influence the appointments of the new state SB members? We’ll write letters, visit or whatever is likely to be most effective. Sue

  4. Thanks for the summary and update. If there is additional information about potential appointees and how that process unfolds, I believe that many of us would appreciate knowing.

  5. […] to write letters to the governor about the new state board of education appointees – see California Science Teacher’s Association’s legislative blog by Christine Bertrand for background on the current mess that might be getting […]

  6. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Science, FOSS Science. FOSS Science said: RT @kqedscience: What Lies Ahead for #Science #Education? […]

  7. Well done, Christine! Your critique of our past governor provides a telling message that we need to share broadly. Your optimism, equally so!

  8. It would be most effective, efficient, and cost saving if CA just adopts the perfectly good national standards. As far as textbooks, I think we could improve science education and, again, save money if we just got rid of state adopted books and instead gave districts a certain amount of money specifically targeted for science instructional materials.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 NGSS 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. 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.