September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

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.