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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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. 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:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.