The district is now moving onto science curriculum alignment as part of their overall alignment process. I do understand the idea of alignment so that students who move from school to school (and it happens more than you might think) will find the same level of instruction. This is fine.
What that means is that most of the other science classes, unless they get certified as a substitute for one of the four, will be electives (AP and IB science courses will also count as substitutes). With so many other subject requirements for graduation, it is unlikely that most of the elective science classes would survive. It would be a big loss.
Two science teachers have written up a review of what has happened previously and where we stand today. I had written to Dr. Enfield to ask her about science curriculum alignment and received no reply.
I am asking you, whether you are a high school parent or not, to please register your concern with the entire Board and with Dr. Enfield. You will be a high school parent someday and you are going to want more than 4 basic science courses.
I'm going to break the thread into two parts; previous discussion/work and where we stand today.
Here is the review of the process so far by the two science teachers.
Last year the district asked teachers to volunteer to work on a science alignment committee. The purpose of this committee was to review the new standards and match them up to the current topics taught in what has been freshman integrated science and biology. The majority of high schools were represented on this committee. Over the course of the year the committee realized that actually very little revision was needed to current courses, and that the majority of state standards were being taught in classes throughout the district. The committee came up with several course topic outlines, and these were given to staff at every high school to look over and vote on.
At no time during this process were staff told that the only options for science progression would be 9th grade physical science, 10th grade biology, and then chemistry and physics. There are many schools that have alternate pathways. Garfield has all freshman take biology, and then a variety of science courses are available during sophomore year. The Center School has a looping curriculum alternating biological science with physical science, and Ballard has the Biotech Academy which allows students to start biology in the 9th grade, and more recently the science department opened up the option for freshman to take biology if they enter high school at a higher math level. This decision was made based on data that math ability and science achievement are closely related, and to provide more options to more students interested in science outside of the Biotech Academy.
In June of last year Ballard high school and Garfield high school were informed by district science that the sequence of science would be 9th grade physical science, 10th grade biology, and then chemistry and physics. This of course put both schools in impossible positions as scheduling for the next school year had already been finalized. Both schools fought for and received a reprieve from the proposed alignment. When asked why these schools had not been informed of this change the reply from CA was “we forgot to tell you.”
Now we move to September of 2010 when science department heads were told that the only courses that will count towards meeting the high school science requirement will be physical science, biology, chemistry and physics, any IB or AP science class, and any course that can be validated against any one of these courses. What this means is that if Garfield wants to teach Marine science it must be validated as either meeting the standards of physical science or biology. After several attempts to have classes validated and being unsuccessful, the Garfield staff has decided to scrap their current system and teach physical science next year to all freshman. Ballard Biotech is currently still in limbo, and non-Biotech students will not be allowed to take biology as freshman.
Throughout the process of this alignment there has been a serious lack of communication and a great deal of obfuscation.
Example 1– emails sent from downtown science to teachers are sent via blind cc. In the past emails sent to science teachers allow for discussion among teachers. This method of communication stifles the ability of staff to share and communicate with each other.
Example 2- department heads requested to meet with the CAO for several months and finally in December an open meeting with head of curriculum and instruction, Cathy Thompson and Kathleen Vasquez was held. Attending this meeting were about 20 science teachers, the science coaches, the head of science Elaine Woo and the above administrators.
Things revealed at this meeting.
1) Neither Thompson nor Vasquez knew that current science standards reach up to 12th grade rather than K-10.
2) That whatever the recommendations made by the alignment committee would be what the district would recommend to the school board. (This was huge news to those on the alignment committee, and was contrary to how the committee has been run for the past year.)
3) That there is no plan for what to do for students who fail either physical science or biology other than “validating courses” against those existing classes, but administrators kept saying during the meeting that there would be time to put credit recovery courses into place by the time they are needed.
4) The funding for this alignment (from a Gates grant) runs out in August 2011.
Since this meeting several classes and teachers have been working on having classes validated which is a lengthy, time consuming, unpaid, and unclear endeavor which must be completed by Jan 31st 2011. The Biotech teachers at Ballard submitted their paperwork for validation and were recently told that the reviewers for validation are too busy with curriculum adoption to actually review their paperwork so those classes will be pre-validated for next year and they will have to resubmit their validation paperwork next year.