State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Primary Points of Contact:
- Thomas Adams — Director, Curriculum Frameworks, and Instructional Resources
- Phil Lafontaine — Director, Professional Learning Support Division, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Director
Partner Organizations: California STEM Service-Learning Initiative; Statewide STEM Task Force; Education and the Environment Initiative; California Partnership Academies; the California Mathematics and Science Partnership grant program; the California Science Project; the California Science Teachers Association; the Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee; State Superintendent of Public Instruction STEM Task Force; Association of California School Administrators; California Environmental Education Agency; California Mathematics and Science Partnership Learning Network; California Regional Environmental Education Community; California STEM Learning Network; California Teachers Association; Southern California Association of Science Supervisors; Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement; California Technology Assistance Project; Jet Propulsion Lab; Council of State Science Supervisors.
Background: California law requires that all students take two years of science including biological and physical science to be eligible for a high school diploma. The state standards are broken down by grade level for grades K–8, Grades K–5 cover earth, life, and physical sciences each year. Grade 6 focuses on earth science, Grade 7 focuses on life science and Grade 8 focuses on physical science. High school standards are divided into the four disciplines of earth, biology/life, physics, and chemistry. There are also investigation and experimentation standards, broken into two sets (K–8, 9–12) that are not intended to be taught on their own, but instead are taught in conjunction with the content standards. California students must take the appropriate grade level of the California Standards Test (CST) for science in grades 5, 8, and 10. High school students take earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, or integrated science tests depending on course completion. In California, legislative statute mandates education policy. The passage of Senate Bill 300 provides a process for reviewing, updating, or revising science standards. The current science standards have been in place since 1998. This process is compatible with the timeline for the Next Generation Science Standards.
Commitment: California has shown a strong commitment to standards-based learning through its adoption of the Common Core State Standards, and in its position as a governing state in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium. California’s current standards have not been updated since 1998, and while still thorough, they are missing recent scientific advances, and the state is eager to update them to match current knowledge. Additionally, a large part of the economy in California is based on science, technology, and engineering businesses and industries. Therefore, high student performance in these areas is necessary, as are new, up-to-date, rigorous standards.
STEM Involvement: In 2009–10, the state legislature created the Statewide STEM Task Force with responsibility for overseeing and analyzing the achievement of STEM education programs. The California State Superintendent is currently establishing a task force of STEM experts to act as advisors to the California Department of Education (CDE) and staff to the Statewide Task Force. The CDE works with other agencies and organizations geared toward STEM education. Additionally, the CDE oversees STEM-focused programs and initiatives, such as the California STEM Service-Learning Initiative, the Education and Environment Initiative (EEI), and California Partnership Academies, all of which work to advance student STEM opportunities in both education and career.
Alliances and Infrastructure: California has strong partnerships and alliances with organizations that can reach its diverse student population, teachers, administrators, and education stakeholders. California has alliances in place to provide statewide communication and professional development experiences such as the California Mathematics and Science Partnership grant program, the California Science Project, the California Science Teachers Association, and the Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) STEM Task Force. Additionally, California has several associations, affiliates, and agencies to assist with the development and implementation of new science standards including: Association of California School Administrators; California Environmental Education Agency; California Mathematics and Science Partnership Learning Network; California Regional Environmental Education Community; California STEM Learning Network; California Teachers Association; Southern California Association of Science Supervisors; Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement; California Technology Assistance Project; Jet Propulsion Lab; and Council of State Science Supervisors. The CDE has also created three online programs to help initiate, facilitate, and enhance professional development among educators, i.e. Brokers of Expertise (BoE), CDE on iTunes U, and Taking Center Stage Act II.
Check back soon for more information on California's state team and implementation plans