September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

Your Opportunity to Provide Input into the Future of Science Assessments

Posted: Monday, July 2nd, 2012

There have been a lot of questions circulating around the future of science assessments and what they will look like in the near future of Common Core assessment and the Next Generation Science Standards. The short answer to most of the questions is, no one knows. Last year, AB 250 (Brownley) authorized the Superintendent (SSPI) to put forward a plan for “transitioning to a system of high-quality assessments.” However, the law only offered an authorization for assessing the Common Core standards specifically. The law did require that the planning process include, among other things,  a discussion around the assessment of science in all grade levels at or above grade 4. The law directs the SSPI to report the recommendations to the fiscal and appropriate policy committees of both houses of the Legislature on or before November 1, 2012.

Statewide Assessment Reauthorization Work Group

AB 250 directed the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to consult with specific stakeholders to develop recommendations, including a transition plan, on the reauthorization of California’s pupil assessment system.

To facilitate the development of recommendations, the California Department of Education (CDE) is formed a work group comprised of stakeholders identified in statute. This work group has only one science teacher representing the voice of science teachers on the work group. This fact makes your participation in the reauthorization survey (below) more important than ever.

Statewide Assessment Reauthorization Survey

The Statewide Assessment Reauthorization survey is an online survey that allows you the unique opportunity to provide thoughts on and suggestions for what you think should be included in this system. The survey includes topics such as which content and grade levels to be assessed, which types of assessments to include, importantfactors to consider for English learners and students with disabilities, and how the assessment results should be used. A survey link for a Spanish version will be posted on the Web page on June 29, 2012.

Statewide Assessment Reauthorization Survey 


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.

6 Responses

  1. I feel very strongly that Science should be assessed every year in all grades for which Science standards have been written. Right now, in California, Science is tested only in grades 5 and 8. So, in the other grades, teachers and administrators naturally focus the majority of their efforts on Math and Language Arts, the subjects that are tested. California’s Science standards do an excellent job of covering the important topics at a developmentally appropriate level, as well as scaffolding the content and complexity as students age. But the standards are largely ignored by teachers (especially in the critical K-5 grades, where more students still have a natural excitement about Science) who are forced to spend most of their classroom time on Math and Language Arts. If the standardized tests included even just a few Science questions each year, maybe 20, teachers would be “forced” to cover more of the Science standards.

    All of what I said above should be applied to Social Studies too, since Social Studies is also only tested in grades 5 and 8. However, testing every year is more critical for Science education because elementary teachers are generally more knowledgeable and interested in Social Studies than they are in Science. Therefore, I think that more Social Studies standards are covered in the elementary grades than Science standards.

    I think Americans are dreadfully underserved in their Science education. It shows every time you listen to the news. If we hope to maintain our place as creative innovators in the world, we must value and support increased Science education.

    Thank you for asking for input! Please let me know if I can help.

  2. Once the SSPI presents recommended science content standards – based on the NGSS – to the SBE, what are the subsequent steps toward adoption? Can anyone explain this process? Thanks!

  3. Dear Carolyn,
    Per SB 300, once the SSPI presents the recommended standards to the SBE in March 2013, the SBE must adopt, reject, or modify the recommended standards by July 2013.

    If the SBE modifies the standards presented by the SSPI, it shall provide written reasons for its modifications in a public meeting. The SBE shall adopt its modifications at a subsequent public meeting held no later than July 30, 2013.

    Those people interested in expressing their support (or dissent) to the SSPI recommended standards should plan to do so during the presentation of the standards at the March 2013 SBE meeting. This meeting is scheduled for March 13-14. For more information about SBE meetings visit

    Those people wanting to influence what is recommended will have the opportunity to do so during one of two public meetings which are required to be held by the SSPI prior to their presentation to the SBE.

  4. I am concerned about the risk that the CCSS may result in science resources being cut back to just a textbook used for “applied math” and “applled reading”.

    I can support the emphasis on reading and writing science in elementary school, if the emphasis results in students prepared for a “flipped” or “inverted” classroom environment during middle school.

    As I understand a “flipped” class: expository reading and writing homework can go “beyond the book” by using online resources and collaboration tools to engage students at the highest levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students who do homework are prepared to question the teacher and receive differentiated instruction while they complete the homework before proceeding to do experiments and activities, analyze data, and discuss their conclusions. Grade-level teacher teams working collaboratively can build a common core of homework lessons and checks for understanding that support the creativity of each individual teacher’s style of classroom instruction and interaction. In practice, this results in very individualized instruction, so the teacher’s challenging work becomes pacing a large and heterogeneous group of students through the curriculum in time for state testing.

    So, I strongly support reducing the breadth and scope of the NGSS for each grade level within every grade span.

  5. I agree with Ellen Meeker’s description of how testing has resulted in under-serving elementary school science.

  6. Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 25, the State Board of Education will receive an update on the AB250 work group activities and feedback from the public meetings. Included in that update comes the suggestion from the work group members:

    • Incorporate a variety of item types to better assess student thinking, application of skills and knowledge, and the formation of oral argument

    • Include statewide assessments in science and history-social science in grades three through eight and end-of-course assessments in grades nine through twelve

    • Consider providing formative assessment practices and tools and interim assessments in English-language arts, mathematics, science, and history-social science in grades two through twelve.

    • Include diagnostic assessment for all grade two students and as needed for students in grades three through twelve.

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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.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw


This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.