May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

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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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here:

Please contact Rosanne Luu at 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.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). 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.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. 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.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. 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 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.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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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.