Tell the California Department of Education to Support Earth Science!

This issue was brought to our attention today.  The California Department of Education wishes to only support the teaching of Biology in High School by only testing students on this science topic.  To respond and support Earth Science education, see email below from California Earth Science educator Wendy Van Norden.

You may recall that Honors Earth Science was recently approved (in 2011) as a University of California Area (d) laboratory science, in an effort led by Wendy Van Norden and supported by Tom Traeger, Ray Ingersoll, Bruce Luyendyk, and Eldridge Moores.

Email from Wendy Van Norden with instructions for action:

From: “Van Norden, Wendy” <>

Subject: Earth Science Education emergency immediate action needed

Date: August 29, 2015 at 8:17:30 PM PDT

Dear California Earth Science educators,

There is an Earth Science education emergency in California that needs your immediate attention.  The CA Board of Education just announced that it is considering an action which could undermine NGSS and the teaching of Earth Science in our state. The California Department of Education staff have recommended that the single high school assessment in science should be an end-of-course assessment covering only life science. You can read the entire proposal at

The California Science Teachers’ Association has responded to this proposal, and NESTA is signing on with the CSTA recommendation.   Please see attached.  However, individual CA citizens can weigh in on this issue, and I urge you to do so immediately. If you concur with CSTA’s position, all you have to do is forward a copy of the letter to with the subject line of “Item 2 – September 2015 Meeting.” Indicate in your email that you support CSTA’s letter.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to craft your own response, as I have done below, you are welcome to use any portions of CSTA’s letter that support your position and submit that to Please copy CSTA at with your submission so that they may track responses.  Don’t hesitate to forward this letter to other interested parties.


My letter-


Michael W. Kirst, President
California State Board of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear President Kirst,

I have been teaching biology and geology in a California high school for the last 34 years. I am concerned that the California Board of Education is considering a recommendation that only biology be assessed as part of the California Next Generation Science Standards.  I would like to lend my support to the recommendation by the California Science Teachers Association that

The California High School Science assessment shall be administered to a student after successful completion of the LEA’s high school science graduation requirements. This assessment shall assess the three dimensions of the CA-NGSS and high school performance expectations from each of the three disciplines: Earth, Life, and Physical sciences. The assessment shall be designed be include both computer-based assessment items as well as hands-on and/or computer-based performance tasks.

The plan to test only biology is at odds with the goals of NGSS which strives to educate students about the many interdisciplinary connections among the sciences. Testing only biology will also have an adverse effect upon the quality and quantity of non-biology classes offered across the state.

California students need to learn about earth and physical science issues that are affecting and will continue to affect all California citizens:  climate change, energy use, resource extraction, water use, and hazards such as landslides, flooding, coastal erosion and earthquakes.

I respectfully urge the California Board of Education to take a more balanced approach to assessment of student understanding of science and consider CSTA’s recommendations.


Wendy Van Norden
NESTA Far West Director
Harvard-Westlake School
3700 Coldwater Canyon
Studio City, CA 91604
818 487-6665