Sunday, February 06, 2011

Science Curriculum Alignment

What the heck is going on with the curriculum alignment in Science?

I can't make heads or tails of it.

Originally, the science curriculum was supposed to be aligned first along with the math curriculum, but then the alignment of the science curriculum was deferred as the state was revising the science Standards and GLEs.

The new state Standards have been set, so the alignment of the science curriculum can now go forward. There is a timetable for the work on the District web site, but it doesn't appear that the District is sticking to the timetable.

The members of the high school science materials adoption committee have been named.

Other than that, it's unclear if anything else on the timetable has actually been done.

During the week of January 24th, Elaine Woo, the District's Science Program Manager, was supposed to send out an invitation to view instructional materials. The public was supposed to be notified that they could review the science instructional materials and provide feedback both on site and through a web site survey to get on specifics of science instructional materials. This survey was supposed to inform the Adoption Committee's work of narrowing the field to three choices. I don't see that invitation or the survey or the instructional materials available for review.

During the week of January 31 there was supposed to be an opportunity for the public to review instructional materials in the Professional Library. There were supposed to be feedback forms with a collection box there as well as an opportunity to give input on SPS Web site. I'm not seeing it.

Maybe that's because it isn't until February 14th that the public is supposed to be notified that they can review science instructional materials and provide feedback through both on-site and Web site surveys. Hmmm. Make the materials available on January 31, but don't tell anyone about it until two weeks later. How is that a good idea?

Here's the fun part, the Committee is supposed to provide the names of the three finalists in High School Science content area to IMC on February 18 after they have had two all day meetings to choose them. In other words, the public opportunity to view and review the materials cannot possibly have any consequence since the decisions will already be made before the public gets the chance to see the stuff. Clever! Schedule the public input opportunity AFTER the committee decision meeting but before the committee's announcement of their results.

Here's another interesting wrinkle in the timeline: the design of the professional development plan and the selection of dates is due on March 23rd, the same day as they announce their final recommendation of materials. How can they design the professional development on the materials before they choose the materials?

I don't see this as an honest or transparent process.

I don't see the District following this timeline.

What the heck is going on? Is Elaine Woo even the Science Program Manager anymore?

Why is only high school science getting aligned?

Why does the District continue to substitute standardized materials for true alignment?

45 comments:

peonypower said...

You have only begun to see the craziness of the science alignment. I could write a whole strand on this. What I do know about the current adoption is this.

I have a colleague on the chemistry adoption committee, and he has not seen the proposed curriculum. No one on the chemistry adoption committee has seen them, and no one on the physical science committee has seen any of the proposed curriculum.

In fact all of the materials being considered are being screened by downtown (Elaine Woo and the science coaches) before any of the teachers who are on the adoption committees see them. I have to wonder why. This has not been the method in the past, and it smells very fishy and MAP contract to me.

Given the lack of transparency and outright deceptive shenanigans of downtown on science alignment I am not surprised. The only time schools have had any response to the alignment issues has been when parents wrote angry letters to the downtown leaders. This is only the beginning of the disaster that will be science alignment.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The budget tool sheet has two items, #10/11, about science alignment and they have labels of "hold until funding can be identified". For the current year it is funded under Title 2B (which I have tried to figure out exactly how that works and haven't) and a Gates grant. But for 2011-2012, apparently those grants end as the funds ($168k and $63, respectively) are listed under General Funding.

The outcomes listed are

"alignment of science courses will not occur without explicit PD and support from a coach" and "common sicence assessment implementation would suffer and not occur."

However item 12 is the selection of the materials from a committee of "volunteer teachers, Science Coaches and an outside consultant". It says the money came from "supplemental levy funds" which, of course, isn't possible as the levy just passes. It got amended at the Work Session to General Fund ($15k). It says "No additional funding required as work will be completed."

Dorothy Neville said...

" It says the money came from "supplemental levy funds" which, of course, isn't possible as the levy just passes. It got amended at the Work Session to General Fund ($15k). It says "No additional funding required as work will be completed.""

Yes, it is possible. Recall that $5.9M of the levy was for the materials adoption. The minute they knew the levy passed, they started this work for staff to start the process. Note that the $5.9M was supposed to cover the adoption process, the actual materials AND professional development.

In fact, at a budget worksession, the board asked if they could delay that work, even though it was promised in the levy, because there were more pressing needs. Staff said sorry, the work is happening already. We could possibly delay the purchase of the books, I suppose, but the cost of the adoption process is a done deal.

Maureen said...

So no staff from Ballard or Garfield are on the science allignment committee (two from RHS which offers no Honors science classes and only one AP science course). I'm worried about BHS' BioTech and GHS' Marine Bio.

zb said...

Maureen -- charlie's link is to the textbook adoption committee, which will only be adopting texts for chemistry, physics, and physical science. It isn't the alignment committee, and shouldn't have any effect on other classes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, what do you mean it won't have any effect on the other sciences classes?

zb said...

The task of the textbook selection committee is to select the textbooks for the 3 classes described: chemistry/physics/physical science. Therefore, it shouldn't affect marine biology or biotech. The textbook selection isn't the science alignment. I'm pretty sure there's another committee whose responsibility is science alignment.

zb said...

(PS: I guess it's selecting the "instructional materials", and not just textbooks).

Anonymous said...

but weren't materials basically what the previous curriculum alignments were? It looked like the LA alignment was all about listing what books for what grades and the math alignment was all about the lousy material? So if the other alignments have been all about the materials then maybe science is too?

-Anne

Sarah said...

No worries here...Harium sits on C&I.

Why am I not feeling confident in the district?

zb said...

Anne:

I don't have an answer to your questions -- just a feeling that it doesn't actually work that way in the classroom (but, I'm not a teacher, so I don't know).

I do also find the alignment web site page confusing. I thought, though, that a textbook should be chosen to fit with the standards that were developed (and that the goal of developing those standards was so that different schools teaching chemistry wouldn't be coming up with their own set of standards). But, then, I read those words (alignment, standards, curriculum) as a novice, and sometimes they all mean very specific things in the field.

(so, please don't take my opinions as having specialized knowledge).

zb said...

What is "C&I"?

G said...

The registration materials for 2011/12 classes at Garfield have Marine Bio and Genetics classified as electives. Physical Science, Bio, Chem, Physics is the science sequence required to graduate. Apparently Marine Bio and Genetics did not clear the validation process.

This is a travesty. If kids are taking 4 years of a foreign language and are in music, they effectively do not have room in their schedule for the most popular and incredible science classes at Garfield. Only APP kids, who have taken Physical Science and Bio in middle school, and are then eligible to take Chem in 9th and Physics in 10th, will be able to fit these "electives" into their schedules with any certainty.

As everyone knows, Marine Bio is one of the most popular classes at Garfield with two of the most talented teachers anywhere. Genetics as well. Yeah, great idea, let's get rid of them. I went on a Marine Bio field trip to Eastern Washington (it was under water, all the way to Spokane) last fall and experienced the most incredible science learning and teaching I have ever witnessed. It encompassed physical science, biology, geology, astonomy, and an infectious sense of discovery and exploration by teachers whose passion for teaching science was beyond impressive. If this class did not jump through whatever hoop the district put in front of it to be validated, I would suggest strongly that the hoop is wrong, not Marine Bio.

So yes, the science alignment is happening. A parent with a 9th grader in biology asked a question at the PTSA general meeting last week. His daughter does not have the required math to take chemistry, but cannot take Marine Bio or Genetics in 10th grade because of their new classification as non-science classes and she needs 4 years of science. He was told to have her sign up for chemistry, the only option available, despite the math deficiency (she will be taking the prerequisite Alegebra II concurrently). Can it get any crazier?

Maureen said...

What is "C&I"?

Curriculum and Instruction: one of the Board subcommittees. Harium is the chair (or at least was in Dec., has that changed?).

So who is on the 'alignment committee?' Is there one? I recall them asking for community members to join a committee that would oversee the overall materials adoption process and also for the science materials adoption committee. I don't recall a committee about alignment per se (but could definitely be wrong.)

Dorothy Neville said...

To add to what G said, something I heard from a Ballard science teacher that sounds plausible. Chemistry lab requirements are specific and therefore one cannot simply add extra chemistry classes willy nilly. So requiring more kids to take chemistry will in fact make those classes harder to get into. And making kids who fail chemistry take that exact class again (instead of another science) will add to the capacity problem.

At the same time, budget cuts have shut down evening school and summer school.

peonypower said...

Wrong- there are teachers from both Ballard and Garfield on the alignment committee- have been since the beginning. The issue is that the alignment committee was tasked with one issue and then the issue changed. Period. The majority of the decisions that are being made were not the recommendations of the committee, but the decisions being handed down by the CAO and company. Also the folks on the alignment are not always the same as adoption as those are two different committees.

emeraldkity said...

Its a little alarming that Kathryn Kelsey is not on the committee. ( I am hoping she is involved with the middle school curriculum? )
She has a Ph.d in Wildlife Ecology, teaches high school & middle school science( in Seattle schools), is co-director for the Science Inquiry & Research Council & writes science curriculum.( this text was co-wrtten with Ashley Steel- who also teaches in SPS)

The Truth About Science: A Curriculum for Developing Young Scientists
The Truth About Science is correlated to the National Science Education Standards and aligned with the Atlas of Science Literacy maps. Teachers are offered several ways of organizing the curriculum, from teaching the full 40 lessons over nine or 10 weeks to choosing one of several fast-track options that take as few as 10 days. Complete teacher support includes formative and summative assessment strategies, a section on planning essentials, materials lists, and appendices with information on definitions of statistical terms, sample posters, a sample student presentation, directions on how to make tables and graphs, and other goodies.

Another nice feature of this book is that it is integrated with the Internet. First, The Truth About Science webpage (nrcse.washington.edu/truth) features more information about the book as well as a page for teachers and one for students. Second, the book is referenced throughout with NSTA’s SciLINKS, links to websites selected by science educators that tie to that particular bit of content. The links are updated regularly, so old or out-of-date sites are continually replaced with new sites.

The Truth About Science is a valuable resource because it moves far away from teaching the “scientific method” as a mechanized approach to conducting experiments. I liked the emphasis on the use of mathematics, in particular statistics, which is unusual for this grade level. The background information provided for each lesson should make even inexperienced teachers comfortable; the lessons are nicely organized to provide a meaningful learning experience for both the students and the teacher. In fact, I would challenge science teachers who use this book to teach the full 40 lessons during the first quarter of the year, and then repeat this process, if appropriate, throughout each of their subsequent units in the various scientific disciplines.

zb said...

G -- I'm confused by your description of Marine Bio & Genetics not being categorized as science classes. Does that mean that they don't count as a science requirement for SPS? Or for some other purpose? Or, that 4 years of some other set of science classes are required, and thus, there's no room left for those classes?

I'm thinking that the new "alignment" means Physical Science, Bio, Chem, Physics for the 4 years. Will all students be required to take that entire series? thus leaving Marine Bio & Genetics as electives that have to fit in elsewhere?

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, I think you summed it up in a nutshell. Unless those classes get evaluated as equal to the others in terms of graduation requirements, well, then they will likely fade away if there are few students who can take them.

G said...

Exactly, zb. Marine Bio and Genetics at Garfield are simply electives as of 2011-2012, not science courses counting as one of the four (or more) science courses a college bound student would want on their transcript. Ironically, the 10th graders taking Marine Bio this year are dual enrolled at the University of Washington, which has qualified this class as equivalent to Oceanography 101, and the students receiving, I believe, a B or higher will receive UW credit for Oceanography 101. And the college course will appear on the high school students' transcripts. But in SPS, it is not considered a "validated" science class. I am glad my youngest child is in 10th grade at Garfield and has been able to take advantage of the incredible gift the teachers and curriculum Marine Bio offer. Shame on SPS for dealing with these gifted teachers and advanced science curriculum as though they were substandard and not "validated" - ridiculous!

Charlie Mas said...

True curriculum alignment has absolutely nothing to do with standardized materials.

Unfortunately, Seattle Public Schools has been substituting standardized materials for true curricular alignment.

So, in the parlance of Seattle Public Schools (but contrary to the correct use of the terms), the adoption of instructional materials is curriculum alignment.

Messed up, huh?

zb said...

So which class in the core curriculum do students currently skip in order to take m-bio or genetics.

Or is it that students have less flexibility to fit chem, for example into their schedule for other reasons?

emeraldkity said...

My daughter didn't take physical science, she took the sequence of Biology/Marine Biology/Chemistry & Physics.

Incidentally although she had never failed a math class, she was 2yrs behind when she began high school according to testing, Garfield offered accelerated & supportive math classes so that she was caught up in math & was able to continue her science sequence of chem & physics.

Neither of my kids took geology/astronomy, in high school- my daughter who attended SAAS, took physics, biology, chem, marine biology. ( & majored in biology @ Reed) Her college didn't even offer geology, although they have one of the best bio programs in the country. She did take northwest geology in the summer at a local community college.

I don't understand the motivation to change something that is working. While Physical science is an important field, especially to this area ( the northwest), marine science has much more relevance & importance to our daily life, than astronomy. But why couldn't they both receive science credit? It doesn't make sense for a classes as rigorous as marine biology & genetics not to qualify for science credit.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm really confused - the science electives don't count toward science credit? What?

Confused
(kids not yet in HS)

Guppy said...

We just got a letter from South Seattle Community College congratulating our child for earning college science credit for his high school Horticulture class. Does this means that high school kids receive college science credit, but not high school science credit?? That doesn't make sense.

Charlie Mas said...

There is a distinction between science classes for credit and science classes that fulfill graduation requirements.

Marine Biology, Genetics, and Horticulture, to name just three classes, are certainly science classes and the students who pass them certainly earn credit.

But the only science classes that count towards graduation requirements are Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Everything else is an elective - a science elective, but an elective nonetheless. Students who take them must still take the four required classes to graduate.

Given the fact that most students have room in their six-period day schedules to earn a maximum of 24 credits (6 per year for four years) to graduate, and given the fact that the bulk of those available slots are taken up with required classes, it is extraordinarily difficult for students to fit these science electives into their schedules.

emeraldkity said...

It is very difficult to take 6 meaningful classes each term.
Particularly in SPS.
My daughter at Garfield found that she didn't feel prepared to take AP Spanish, after her jr yr class was taught by substitutes. ( Although she still had three years)
She also was forced to fill her time slots by being a TA, when the school district canceled the GTA program, mid year.
( still she was accepted to all the colleges she applied to)

While not " required" as yet- as they recognize some districts do not offer that opportunity, most colleges want incoming students to have had four years of core classes- namely
English, History, Math, Science ( Including @ least 2 labs), Foreign language & Arts classes.

Which is why many students in SPS need to have their PE requirements fulfilled by school sports teams & they can't take as many arts classes as they would like. ( IMO)

( & another reason why students take running start or attend private high schools, which often offer 7 credits a term)

Allowing PE waiver for school sports teams allowed my daughter to take most of the classes she needed. Students who also need to work ( as I did in high school), will likely not be able to do that & so are less likely to be able to take all the courses they need to continue their education post high school.

However- I see that the district is trying to encourage students to take more CTE courses, rather than college prep.

Credits obtained in certain Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses have been recognized as meeting subject matter graduation requirements. Please consult with your counselor.

Interesting.

Charlie Mas said...

I wonder if the CTE courses had to go through the same "validation" process that Marine Biology and Genetics were required to follow.

zb said...

So is it physical science that's the issue? that folks want to be able to replace physical science with an "elective" science like Marine Bio or Genetics?

In the new WA science standards (not SPS), the documents:
http://www.k12.wa.us/Science/pubdocs/WAScienceStandards.pdf
suggest that Phys Sci should be a survey of life science, physics, earth science, and chemistry (with specifics about the material that should be covered). The content therein would be tested in the WA state test for science. If so, Phys Sci would be a pre-requisite for Chem/Bio/Phys, and in theory at last, one would assume that content and problem solving knowledge in teaching those courses.

I'm guessing from parental comments here that Phys Sci doesn't actually work that way (and remember from my own experience that it could be a smattering of science the teacher who was in charge of the class happened to know). The lack of "alignment" (for lack of a better word) across teachers and classrooms meant that Phys Sci couldn't be counted on as a prerequisite and the bio/phys/chem content would then just be taught again by the teachers of those classes.

But, the new standards (along with the assessment in the state test) are supposed to counter act that tendency.

I suppose people are unconvinced that it will work that way, but if it did, replacing Marine Bio for Phys Sci wouldn't really be acceptable (unless the student completed Phys Sci some other way).

(now one could probably replace Bio with Marine Bio, without messing up a sequence, but that seems a little odd to me)

(Again, I'm merely trying to understand from publicly available info; please don't assume that using education jargon from the websites means that I know how these things actually work, only how the document says they should work).

ds said...

Are there any provisions for kids who did well in middle school science (e.g., all A's and/or 4 on 8th grade science MSP) to be exempt from taking the 9th grade physical science class? It seems like an intro physical science class could be such a waste of time for well-prepared students who plan on taking bio, chem & physics anyway. This one-size-fits-all approach has to go.

G said...

Garfield has allowed 9th graders to take biology instead of physical science. I've always thought that the kids coming out of Washington (pre the current policy of pushing the 9th and 10th grade science curriculum down to 7th and 8th grade for APP)and other schools with strong middle school science programs (TOPS, private, etc)were assumed to have covered physical science in middle school. There are kids at Garfield who do take physical science, but it has not been mandatory. I know my kids coming out of TOPS have been very well prepared for Biology, Chemistry and Physics as a result of a very strong Physical Science curriculum that spanned 7th and 8th grades with an amazing teacher. It is a rigorous class, and they have found that they are repeating much of what they learned at TOPS in the Bio/Chem/Physics classes at Garfield. There has been no disadvantage to not retaking Physical Science in 9th grade for my kids who were very well prepared in middle school. Skipping Physical Science allows them to take an extra science class as a high school student, and at Garfield, that has traditionally been in 10th grade with the Marine Bio/Genetics offerings. Most kids who come into Garfield taking Biology in 9th grade also are placed in Geometry rather than Algebra I, so that 10th grade extra science class gives them the ability to take Alegebra II as 10th graders, a prerequisite to the Chemistry taken in 11th grade. There are students that opt out of the Marine Bio/Genetics year and go right to Chemistry as 10th graders.

Mandating that all high school students, regardless of preparation, must take Physical Science (except APP)in 9th grade in high school removes any ability to step outside the sequence and take these amazing classes or accelerate your learning so you could take AP Chemistry and Calculus-based Physics as a senior, for instance, if you choose.

It's not broken, but they're fixing it, with the explanation that they want kids to be able to transfer between schools at any point and pick up where they left off. Standardizing, and in my estimation, lowering the bar for so many. The science programs at Garfield should be replicated, not torn apart by this alignment. Great for kids who need Physical Science in 9th grade, but except for APP, there is no way out of the 4 year sequence required to graduate. Shouldn't our high school students be encouraged to excel? Rather, SPS is making them all sit in the same seats in the same classes for 4 years, regardless of interest or motivation or preparation. And effectively destroying one of the most amazing high school classes kids at Garfield take - Marine Bio.

hschinske said...

Only APP kids, who have taken Physical Science and Bio in middle school, and are then eligible to take Chem in 9th and Physics in 10th, will be able to fit these "electives" into their schedules with any certainty.

Assuming they get high school credit (which I think they are supposed to do), yes. I think that's an appalling consequence, as I'm sure most APP parents do. I want to be really clear about that, because I have a terrible feeling that from central admin's point of view, being able to blame APP for stuff is a feature, not a bug. Never mind if no one in APP ever wanted such a policy one little bit.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

I also don't know where Computer Science courses come into this. They are a different kind of science. Both the Garfield one and now the Roosevelt one are very popular.

(I was at Roosevelt talking with a teacher and a student came by to tell the teacher about the class. He said the room was full at 36 students and they were all excited. The CS teacher asked, "Who likes math?" The student said that 2/3rds of the class said yes. The other third said it was tough but didn't hate it. This student was so excited over using binary code.

We need students to feel excited about the work they do.

zb said...

Seems to me like the problem is that there are students who are already coming in with the physical science content/problem solving knowledge but aren't allowed to opt out of it, unless they were in APP, and officially received that content knowledge.

Saying that lack of the class hasn't hurt a particular group of students isn't a test of that, exactly, because it's possible that enough students who *don't* have the content knowledge are opting out so that it's being re-taught in bio/phys/chem for everyone (or perhaps, for everyone who doesn't take AP versions of the classes -- I still don't understand how that works completely, either).

But, it seems like the Washington State Science standards test would be a way to opt out? When would the kids need to be tested to show that they have the content knowledge to opt out of physical science? The timing might not work, but if it could, it could offer a way to opt out, and, it should be required of all students who are opting out (i.e. including APP students).

PurpleWhite said...

@G - there was another great UW in the high school course that was offered focusing on Neurobiology and Drug Addiction, which is something covered in the Genetics class, however, since they would not earn science credit for this class, it was not something that our department decided that we wanted to pursue. Morale is bad right now for teachers.

It is true that the District does not consider Genetics, Marine Science, Ecology, or Horticulture, Practical Physics to count towards science graduation credit. However, colleges do see the courses as science courses. Students do only need 2 years of science to graduate, but I always recommend to students to take Chemistry at least. What we worry about are the students at a lower level- those who don't pass Physical Science their 9th grade year or Biology their 10th grade year. There is currently no course to help those students graduate if none of the courses count for science graduation credit. Yet again, we are hurting our most vulnerable kids. At our last meeting downtown the District Science people mentioned that they didn't really have a plan for those kids but that (I'm paraphrasing) "It didn't really matter b/c those kids wouldn't be a problem until 2 years from now and by then we'll get a plan". I very much worry about those students.

I also agree with many posters above -I would love to have students with a great Physical Science Course in middle school - it seems to fit perfectly there. Or at least let the District offer a clear opt-out test, especially if the state is moving towards an end of course Biology Exam.

Maureen said...

I spoke briefly with Elaine Woo at the SCPTSA meeting last night. She had brought all of the HS science materials for parents to look through. (big heavy books with lots of bright illustrations, oh yeah) She said that the plan is to create a method/pathway for kids who are advanced to be able to skip Physical Science and so still be able to take an advanced science class.

I pointed out that no one seems to be aware of that (including, in my experience, the HS counselors) and she said they haven't really had time to flesh it out and figure out how they can determine who can skip but they have no intention of reducing options for advanced students.

She said there are no resources at the HSs or District to test incoming students on their science level, and they don't have a test yet anyway. So I asked if the MS teachers could administer a test (actually I think MS science teachers should just recommend placement like they did with math teachers for ages). She made a noncommittal sound, so not sure if it was a new idea to her or not. I hate the idea that there will be two or three years worth of kids who are stuck in uninspiring science classes just because they got the alignment and materials ahead of a single test. It's happening right now at RHS. Ms. Woo didn't seem to be aware of that.

Meanwhile the advanced science classes will just disappear (BioChem/Organic was cancelled at RHS this year). And once things go away, it can be very hard to get them back

Maureen said...

The science materials are now available in the library at JSCEE for people to review. I was snarky about them in the last post. The Physical Science books especially looked like they were aimed at 4th graders, but some of the Chem and Physics books actually seemed to have content aimed at HS students. I didn't have enough time to really be able to judge their relative merits. I hope some of you with some expertise can take the time to look them over and comment (please?!).

Eric M said...

We just found out that all the work that science teachers did to "validate" "non-aligned" science courses (quotes denote JSCEE-ese) was pointless.

The "validation" process was meant to prove that a science course met at least 80% of the standards covered in one of the 4 "aligned" courses, and so could count toward graduation credit. In actuality, it required teachers to prove that, for instance, a botany course was actually a biology class in disguise, or an astronomy class was actually a physics class. (Dear reader, I see you smirking. Why have all those different classes and departments and buildings at Universities, if they're really all just a few classes? I don't understand this bureaucratic urge for smooshing every type of fruit into a blender, either.)

Anyway, some teachers of "non-valid" courses balked and didn't do the validation work (unpaid, of course). Some were told point blank by administrators they had to do this work, particularly if the course was mostly taken by 9th or 10th graders. So they worked hard, did a lot of hurried meeting and comparing of standards, a lot of writing and cutting and pasting, a lot of assembling of syllabi and sample assignments and rubrics, blah, blah, blah. Met the end of January deadline. Jumped through all the new hoops set up by JSCEE.

Oops. Now JSCEE is too busy with other parts of "alignment" to form a committee and review any of the reams of validation documentation they themselves demanded in such a house-is-on-fire hurry.

This is so Dilbert.

New rule: nobody gets to hop up and down demanding teachers do more stuff that's not paid for, and nobody gives a damn about in the end anyway, and doesn't make a difference anyway.

Like the senior project. Big initiative from Olympia, now, 5 years later, equal to exactly nothing.

peonypower said...

Maureen- What Elaine said is not true about a test. Ballard high school has been told that it will be a "pilot" for a test that students can take to skip physical science. Ballard has been told that the test will be developed by downtown staff, administered by downtown, and given at Ballard 2 times this spring. I am sure this was in reaction to the heavy push back downtown was getting over slowing kids down. Ballard science teachers have not been told what sort of test, when, or what it will cover.

Again this alignment is all over the place in terms of organization and justification. Ballard already had a system in place for having students start biology in 9th grade that the science staff discussed and worked on the plan 3 years ago. Since then the number of students taking biology at Ballard is hovering at about 90 (including the 9th grade biotech co-hort.) The other clincher to this test is that if a student who is selected by lottery into the biotech academy fails the test they must swear on the wig of Sir Isaac Newton that they will take physics their senior year to make sure they get exposed to the physical science standards. The whole alignment is a mess, and the rationale of forcing every school to be the same in case a kid transfers is really silly given we have the new student assignment plan. This alignment is being driven by the grant made my the Gates foundation and I would guess at creating STEM schools like Cleveland. Gates did just invest in Venture schools in California ( a charter CMO company.)

As a science teacher it has been maddening and completely science-less in terms of research and development.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One thing to keep in mind. In the Strategic Planning Budget tool, item #10 under "College and Career Readiness" is the alignment of these 4 science classes. They have budgeted $168k in 2011-12 for this. It is in red (hold). Which means that if they decide to hold off on this, there is time to get organized to tell the Board how bad this all is.

Maureen said...

peonypower, actually, what you say is pretty much in line with what Ms. Woo said. She even told me that Ballard kids who failed the test had to swear they would take Physics later. My point is that this is a hidden special case and that it won't be applied to the other HSs (ever?), maybe even at BHS.

It seems to me that they should just look and see if the kids who have skipped Physical Science in the past have passed Chemistry and Physics. If they have, fine. If a significant number haven't, they should identify which Middle School those kids went to and require those MS teachers to pretest all their kids or explain why those particular kids couldn't hack advanced science.

cascade said...

Here's an idea: Defund the science alignment this next year because of funding challenges.

Leave everything alone. Nor more alignment. No more textbook adoption. Stop the process. Stop the textbook payments. Leave the current program options in place. Realign the DOWNTOWN department.

Start from the beginning. In the world of Dilbert moves of the science alignment, this is the least harmful, even if it is exasperating.

peonypower said...

@cascade
great idea. It is what every science I know would like. Stop everything right now. We are doing just fine.

@Maureen-
glad to know that Elaine fessed up to Ballard and the test. The science teachers at Ballard do not support this special treatment as we feel all students who are ready should be able to take biology their freshman year.

@Melissa
As far as letting board members know- Ballard and Garfield have both written letters outlining the issues around the proposed alignment and sent them to board members. The impression that we get from downtown is that this issue has been decided (and somehow the board either does not have to approve or it will rubber stamp it.) Not sure how much alerting them has helped as they have known about the mess this is since October. I know in idea they support us, but will they really say no. Meanwhile students will be signing up for classes next week.

Maureen said...

Meanwhile students will be signing up for classes next week

So what happens if a kid shows up and just INSISTS on going straight to Bio (probably with their parents INSISTING right along with them)? Is it possible? ( I know of a sophomore at RHS who did it, but she's a firecracker and her parents had expended a huge amount of energy making it happen for their older kid who was in the first class at RHS that would have been required to take Physical Science in 9th grade.)

What argument(s) are most apt if you are INSISTING?

Eric M said...

Ha! A colleague at Roosevelt who teaches physical science was planning to go down to look at the Physical Science books at JSCEE today, and walked in on a meeting of physical science teachers at Roosevelt, and they were eliminating books from consideration. Before they'd even looked at the public comments they were soliciting (due by Friday).

Other colleagues went down to JSCEE to see these same books, and they were all up at Roosevelt, so there was nothing to look at, with no warning or notice.

What a process ?!?