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 (www.cascience.org/csta/leg.asp) 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 KQED.org Science, FOSS Science. FOSS Science said: RT @kqedscience: What Lies Ahead for #Science #Education? http://ow.ly/3m8x7 […]

  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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Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org 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.

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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.

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Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

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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.

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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.

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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.