With the Uncertain Status of New Standards for California, What Do I Do Right Now?
Posted: Thursday, August 1st, 2013
by Rick Pomeroy
“What do I do right now?” Whenever I talk to science teachers about NGSS and the proposed California science standards, this is the first question I get. With the pending-approval status of new California standards, this is an important and pressing question that needs an answer sooner rather than later. To quell their concerns, my answer is, “Focus on the Science and Engineering Practices.” Although this may seem a bit flippant, in reality it is something that every teacher has control over. It is also a strategy that will resonate with the expectations of the Common Core Standards that are being implemented throughout California this year.
I am not so concerned right now that teachers begin changing their curriculum to address the new set of Disciplinary Core Ideas because many of those are similar to the current California Standards. They may be written in a different format and there may be different applications of the content in question, but essentially, the Disciplinary Core Ideas represent the content of science, something that teachers have gotten quite proficient at sharing. I am also not concerned right now with a heavy emphasis on the Cross Cutting Concepts. Deep down in their souls, most science teachers know certain concepts permeate all of areas science. For example, the ideas that scale can impact function or that energy exists in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space science are not foreign to science teachers. In our current “silo” approach to the sciences, however, we may talk about these cross cutting concepts using different terms or calculations and we seldom emphasize that they are the same ideas. Clearly there is work to be done and although we will ultimately need to focus on our use of the specific Disciplinary Core Ideas and the Cross Cutting Concepts outlined in the NGSS/CA science standards, for now the focus needs to be on the practices.
In our current standards, the “practices” (Investigation and Experimentation) are relegated to a separate chapter at the end of all of the content. Consequently, these “practices” are often taught for the sake of the practice, devoid of a connection to meaningful content and in some schools not taught at all. In the NGSS, the “practices” are integrated into every Performance Expectation. It will no longer be sufficient to do one lab activity to validate the concepts in a chapter or to provide a framework for demonstrating vocabulary prowess. Instead, teachers will be asked to engage their students on a daily basis in the “practices” of science and engineering. Teachers will need to rethink and redesign their lessons to include modeling, argumentation, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions on a daily basis. This is a major shift from the “business as usual” lecture, practice, test format that we sometimes see today. In many ways, science teaching is coming full circle. For those who have been teaching for more than 20 years, it almost looks like the pendulum is swinging back.
So, in response to the “What do I do right now?” question, my recommendation to focus on the practices makes sense. We should put all of our energy into incorporating new ways of teaching to engage students in authentic science practices, building their abilities to think critically, to analyze data and observations, and to communicate effectively. Building these strategies and skills into lessons now will prepare both the teacher and the student to make the next leap when new standards are approved. Instead of building an entirely new curriculum structure, the key practices piece will already be in place allowing teachers to focus in the content and concepts and how they will be integrated into a vibrant dynamic teaching philosophy.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…