Thursday, February 17, 2011

Science Curriculum Alignment

Seattle Public high schools have a wide variety of really good science classes. They range from the BioTech program at Ballard (celebrating its 10th year in 2011) to Marine Science to Forensics and many others. Here is a link to the SPS page on this issue.

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.

UPDATE: This paragraph is in error. SPS graduation requirements are for TWO science courses (one a lab science). The issue is that the district wants to make 4 science classes mandatory for graduation. Those classes are physical science, biology, chemistry and physics.

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.

Previous Discussion/Work

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.

38 comments:

Sarah said...

Ridiculous. This must be part of ed. reform pushing math and science.

Surely, such a system will set many students up for failure. Let's face it, not everyone needs physics. We'll still need machinists etc.

Let our kids take classes that will meet their needs.

zb said...

We talked of this before, and I'm wondering if it's really true that 4 years of HS science are required for graduation (as opposed to desirable for college application/entrance).

zb said...

I'm also wondering what the preferred solution is?

1) validate more "replacement" classes?
2) push physical science into 8th grade?
3) allow some means of placing out of the required curriculum? (i.e. tests to show that you have the physical science knowledge, and thus can skip the class?)

also, are there other sciences classes that could replace the physical science? Or are we talking about biology and the biological science subfields, primarily?

I'll admit a bias here that I am familiar with biology as a field, and don't consider the subgenres of biology as a substitute for the general course.

cascade said...

Thank you for writing a cogent thread on this issue. It is a classic example of well-intentioned Central Staff going well-awry.

This is not an acceptable use of central control. I second parents in urging central administration to back off. cc: your comments to every board member.

And P.S. Ballard High School teacher Eric Muhs was recently celebrated on the front page of the Seattle Times for his energizing science curriculum. His class landed their project on an actual upcoming space shuttle flight. Genius!!! But his course is one of many that doesn't fit into the 1-2-3-4 box that the District is forcing on teachers.

RIDICULOUS.

Anonymous said...

I've got a word that can't appear on this family-read blog.

It starts with "cluster".

-skeptical-

seattle citizen said...

What, if anything, is the state proposing for End Of Course exams in science? Are these (if they are in the pipeline) driving this limitation on science offerings?

What is school becoming merely, and wholly, ReadWriteMathScience?

What happened to meeting the individual needs of individual children?

Chris said...

UW requires TWO years of lab science.

peonypower said...

Just to be clear the requirement for graduation is 2 years of lab science (core 24 will require 3 years if it happens). The district has mandated that this will be physical science and biology- but has yet to say that students must pass these classes. The science hspe will become the end of course exam in biology next year. Most likely physical science will not have an end of course exam because there is no funding for it.

So in one possible scenario if you failed physical science, then passed biology you would only be able to take chemistry or physics to meet your requirements, unless there is a validated course. The point is that by saying only these 4 courses will count towards graduation you are narrowing science choices for students, which is a mistake. The alignment committee does recommend that students have physical science and biology, but never ever recommended when or that any changes be made to upper level courses. The chemistry/physics business is probably a move in preparation for more STEM schools.

The point is that students who have a passion for science should be allowed to take classes that inspire them. The current proposal is ridiculous and will mean the end of science inspiring electives like Mr. Muh's astronomy class as more students are required to take just these sciences.

Anonymous said...

Melissa forgot to use the BS keyword on this one.

SolvayGirl (darn Google still being finicky)

Eleuterio said...

Mel, I'd like to hear more about that movement between schools as an argument for alignment between schools within SPS.

In my 9 years of experience in SPS, these students add up to an extremely small number. For me, this year, like most years, out of 140 students, I have exactly ZERO students that have arrived from another school mid-year.

Other SPS teachers concur, and see this argument as utterly specious, especially when offered as the first & best argument for alignment.

Spending so much money, so many person hours, so much churn, to accommodate the possible "curricular confusion" of a few transfer students is ridiculous, and can't possibly be the real reason behind "alignment".

Megan Mc said...

This is a perfect example of what Jan said on another thread. The district is jumping to come in and "fix" things without looking at what was working well and replicating that. I don't recall anyone saying Biotech is terrible we should replace it.

Eleuterio said...

Or without talking to teachers who've made successful courses & programs. We teachers are just assembly-line worker-drones, stamping out widgets.

We have no knowledge, no experience, no credibility.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eleuterio, I can only tell you what I have hear at meetings on this issue. One reason for alignment is so that students who transfer from school to school are not out of sync when they get to a new school.

Is it valid? I don't know the numbers so I can't say. I know that when we had full-out site-based management, some schools were very different from others BUT it's a far cry from everyone on the same subject in the same year.

Part Two comes tomorrow.

Jan said...

Melissa: thanks so much for this post. This issue is driving me wild.

I have to say, I agree with Eleuterio. I have been around this district now for 30 years, and more than 20 as a parent, and I have never seen, as a pressing issue, the one that the District claims as its primary reason for alignment. Given the availability of online courses, etc., I do not believe for ONE SECOND that we cannot accommodate the VERY few kids who move mid semester (and those moving at semester breaks can be handled even MORE easily).

I think we are wrong to concede the District's position on this issue, as I think it is a total red herring.

We have some absolutely stellar, out of the park, science courses and teachers, teaching great classes. Those are assets that cannot be easily replicated if lost -- but the District is totally blind to them (in reality, the pr materials always talk as if they matter). This entire thing is underfunded, given the current budget crisis, understaffed (per your point on the Ballard folks), and WAY WAY underanalyzed.

I think we should shelve the WHOLE thing -- and let the current courses continue. THEN, the District should come up with a group (educators, parents, alignment committee members, university professors who get our kids in science majors, community scientists) and rethink the entire problem -- in light of BOTH the issues, the current assets (including courses in schools), and the current shortages (money, central administration time, teacher time).

Then -- we can figure out:
1. What we have that we want to preserve (that would be lost under the current plan);
2. What we need to accomplish -- (this would include A. the problem the District raises of kids transferring, B. the desire of kids with full schedules -- due to language, music, etc. -- to have access to the great courses outside the core, C. the fact that so few kids pass the state science tests and how this entire endeavor can address that -- at least at the high school level, how prepared (or not) our kids are when they reach post-high school education (this is why we need university educators on the panel).
3. What "shortages" there are -- teacher time for proving their courses qualify for waivers, central admin time to review waivers, somebody's time to come up with EOC tests, money, pathways for kids who fail one course, but still need two (or three) to graduate.

THEN -- formulate a plan that maximizes goals and makes the best possible use of available resources.

Because, "throwing away" great science courses that kids love is NOT a good use of resources. Forcing Ballard teachers to spend hundreds of hours trying to qualify their courses, only to throw it all away, give them a one year waiver, and make them do it all again next year is NOT a good use of resources.
Making all kids take physical science if there is no end of year test (and one is required) is NOT a great resource. Frankly, spending millions buying physical science books at this point is probably not a great use of resources. All the work done by the GHS teachers was NOT a great use of those resources.

This is the science equivalent of closing 5 schools one year at great cost, only to double that expense by opening 5 more the next year.

WV says "plart" -- as in I want no plart in the dismantling of the SSD's great science courses!

Jan said...

Oh -- and I think it was zb who offered the idea of moving physical science down to eighth grade.

I totally agree. Middle school science is weak. My impression is that at the high schools, it is MUCH better. Eighth graders schould clearly be able to handle physical science. If wiser science heads than mine think there is great benefit in having ALL kids take physical science, let's move it to eighth grade, and clear up space in the high schools to keep the great courses (and keep kids' access to them) that we currently have!

Lisa said...

Here is my experience. My kid is one who is benefiting from BHS's policy of allowing freshman who can enroll in Geometry also enroll in Biology. He went to a private parochial school for middle school, and let me tell you it was nothing fancy. Any kid could enroll -- no admittance test -- and there was a range of abilities within the classroom. The families were mostly far from wealthy, although only a few were actually poor. They used the much-maligned NSF curriculum. So why can they graduate 8th graders who are all prepared for Geometry/Biology and SPS cannot? True, the teachers were good, but so are most we have encountered at SPS.

It just seems to me that middle school at SPS is characterized by such poor curricula and low expectations that kids tread water instead of progressing. Moving Physical Science to middle school could be a good move. Better yet, have Algebra I and Physical Science be options for any 8th grader. Kids who find that daunting can hang back and follow the proposed "aligned" path, which is not horrible in itself but merely crushing for kids who are motivated to move ahead.

zb said...

I still remain confused about how the alignment affects a class like astronomy.

Why can't a student who's interested in Huh's astronomy class (and I completely agree, a quick google search suggests that he is a stellar teacher who a child would be lucky to encounter during their education) take phys sci, biology and then astronomy?

Is the issue that students want to take phys sci, biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy, and that not taking bio in 9th grade means they can't do that?

Are we really talking about bio in 9 instead of phys sci? That seems like a concrete suggestion that one could try to make work (placement tests, elective phys sci and & algebra for all 8th graders, rather than a subset, . . . .). But, I don't see what I would talk to my school board rep about about a general dissatisfaction about "alignment."

(And, I believe the alignment is not so much for students switching mid-year, but between years. The issue is that there's a worry that students who go from, say TOPS to Garfield will have different holes than a kid who goes from Eckstein to Roosevelt -- or switches among those schools in different years of high school).

Chris said...

Hey, didn't we just have a conversation about the district practically forbidding mid-year transfers at high school???

In any case, if student mobility is such a problem, isn't it sufficient that the aligned classes are offered at each school? Why do you have to require all four?

Why would you set HS graduation requirements higher than UW entrance requirements unless you wanted to increase the dropout rate? I know, raising standards, etc. Isn't it odd that they are not addressing sending kids off to college needing math remediation on one hand but raising the science bar on the other? As I write this it's beginning to seem like this is just another "tool in the belt" for smashing teacher morale.

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, there is only so much time in a school year. If you have 4 mandatory science classes to take over four years, plus LA, foreign language,PE, math, Oc-ed (all the SPS graduation requirements), it doesn't leave much room for electives which is what ALL the other science courses become.

Unless the non-mandatory science courses get the certification that they CAN be used as substitutes for one of the 4 mandatory ones, they remain electives. If most students don't have room in their schedule for a science elective, guess what classes will be dropped? Electives that very few students sign up to take.

So far it looks like getting a class certified or validated is going to be very tough. I think one issue to doing this is if we are moving to end-of-course exams, then we'll need one for every course and maybe the district doesn't want to have to create so many.

Just as having a variety of sports keeps some kids coming to school, having a variety of classes keeps other kids interested. Our district, state and country go on and on about math and science and getting kids interested and then we go and make it harder for kids to access a wide variety of classes?

Maybe Dr. Enfield and I will talk at some point. I'd like for her to tell me I have it wrong or there's something I'm missing. But the science teachers who wrote up this information have been working on this over a year and I don't think they are misunderstanding anything.

basically said...

Chris you just took the words off my keyboard...I thought no one was allowed to even consider changing high schools mid-year, even if you moved. I don't get it.

emeraldkity said...

if the district is genuinely concerned about students who may be transferring mid year, it seems they would be interested in offering more classes not fewer, to encompass the students who are moving from other districts/states- private schools, homeschools etc.

Students currently transfer INTO SPS BECAUSE of the science programs offered at Garfield & Ballard-

Dismantling the hard work that the community led by teachers to perfect these courses is the cherry on the top of moves to lower the bar for all students and make what could be ( & has been) a full flavored educational experience into Pablum for all- but enjoyed by none.

Amelia said...

It seems to me that providing MORE science electives would make it easier for the transfer students to find the classes they need to graduate AND meet their interests.

As a side note, all the military kids out there know it is possible to move from school to school (often in different parts of the country) and still graduate and attend college.


That being said, when I moved from Texas to Washington in high school the high school was concerned that I didn't have Washington State History. I told them it wasn't taught in Texas.

SP said...

Questions about science credit requirements for graduation-

Melissa said that the district wants to make 4 science credits mandatory for graduation, but I do not see that specifically outlined on the link. Melissa- is this part of the written proposal somewhere?

Peonypower said:
"Just to be clear the requirement for graduation is 2 years of lab science (core 24 will require 3 years if it happens). The district has mandated that this will be physical science and biology- but has yet to say that students must pass these classes".

PeonyP- I do not think this is correct. SPS current follows OSPI's rule for science credit required (WAC 180-51-060), which is 2 science credits with "at least one credit" in a lab science. You also say that the district has mandated that these 2 credits be physical science and biology, but where is this specified? In the SPS graduation requirment bulletin it just states 2 science credits and under "Required Courses" lists just "select from approved course offerings" but where does is state that there is a required physical science and biology credit? In fact, as I understand it, many high schools currently allow students who have done well on their 8th grade science class to skip physical science and go straight to Biology in 9th grade.

The HECB's (WA's college board) current min. requirements for college entrance in WA are 2 credits of lab science (specifically one algebra-based science course "as determined by the school district") and starting in 2012 the other must be in biology, chemistry, or physics. HECB also notes that WWU specifies that the algebra-based science course be chemistry or physics.

OK- if what Melissa says is true, that SPS wants to require 4 science credits then this is a HUGE change from any district, state or HECB college entrance requirements! Even OSPI has delayed their CORE 24 idea (Science would be 3 credits with 2 labs) because of funding, in addition to the extreme lack of science teachers state wide as well as not enough lab science classrooms (at the earliest, implementation would be 2018).

How will Seattle do this, besides dealing with all of the problems of kids who do not pass the required 4 science classes having to make up the credits in order to graduate? It sounds like a disaster in the making, in true Seattle school district proportions!
(and by the way, does the current curriculum alignment committee specify which science course will be the algebra-based science requirement, as a district designated requirement specified by the HECB for college entrance in WA?)

zb said...

Can someone clarify for me where the alignment info says that 4 years of science will be required? I see Phys Sci + Bio being required (and particularly, only those two classes), but don't see where you have to take 4 years (and, especially not where you have to take Chem & Phys). Do people want to take astronomy instead of biology?

And, honestly, I'm not saying "I'm confused" as a rhetorical technique. I really don't understand what it is people want to do that they can't do. Is there a link somewhere that outlines the graduation requirements? Perhaps I would understand better then.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The issue I don't think is mid-year transfers but students who change at the end of a school year.

Very funny, Amelia.

For those of you with questions, part two of this thread (just posted) may answer some of your questions.

SPS Alumna and Mom said...

I agree that several of the suggestions here could work (moving phys. sci. to middle school, allowing schools to apply for substitutions), but still favor alignment in theory.

I don't have kids in HS currently, so I am a little confused as to why it would be so terrible to have some science classes count as electives. I took both Genetics and Marine Science at Garfield a LONG time ago (so basically 3 years of biology, 1 of chemistry, and nothing else). Both were popular courses (still are) that people probably would have signed up for as electives. Why is it bad to ask that they also take the four fundamental classes?

emeraldkity said...

Both were popular courses (still are) that people probably would have signed up for as electives.

I agree

Why is it bad to ask that they also take the four fundamental classes?

Perhaps you also took GTA or African American history? Both of those classes have been canceled by the district.
In my daughters case, she was enrolled in two periods as a senior in GTA, one she was a TA for younger students which was an excellent opportunity for her to reinforce what she had learned.
( The district cut the program DURING her senior year)

For a student who is trying to take a strong academic curriculum- & crossing their fingers that they will be able to take 6 classroom based courses each semester in high school- those classes could easily be filled by four years of English- Math-History- Foreign Language-Music/Art/Drama-Science.

But wait!
Students also are obligated to have two years of P.E. credits & one & a half years of Occupational Education.
& where is the room for students who need to take a makeup class because of uneven courses in middle school?

They are cutting summer school- so students like my daughter,( who tested two years below grade level in math, despite never receiving lower than a B in that course in middle school- however she was able to combine extra math support in the ACE class-- that Garfield offered- with summer school instruction, so that by 11th grade, she was able to take chemistry & physics the next year)
They would not be able to " jump a track" but would be stuck in the same level throughout high school, limiting their post graduation choices.

Is THAT what we want? So students who enter at one level, STAY at that level?

Maureen said...

The issue for our family with only counting those four courses towards science credit and also requiring all kids to take Physical Science in 9th grade is that then the only real way for a kid planning a career in science to take anything the least bit 'above and beyond' is for them to take an AP level of the class. AP classes have very rigid content requirements and don't leave much room for teachers and students passions. (and they aren't offered at all HSs.)

A kid who wants four years of science credit on their transcript can currently often skip PSci (which from what I can see is basically a survey course that covers intro Chem/Physics/Bio and earth and space science) and get in Bio/Chem/Physics and still have one year to take something cool and challenging.

Under the proposed system, only the kids who are willing and able to double up on science one year would be able to do that, plus given prereqs, that would have to be their junior or senior year when, increasingly in SPS, they will probably also be required to take APLit and Comp and AP US History. And if they are a science person, they would probably be enrolled in AP CHem or AP Physics (see my 1st paragraph). Add music or a foreign language and you can forget it.

Given how unlikely it is a critical mass of kids will be able to fit those 'elective' science classes into their schedules, the courses just won't be offered. Which would stink.

Wow, reviewing the above, I wonder how much of this is driven by the movement to enroll every kid into as many AP/IB classes as possible in order to raise the USNews rankings of our HSs?

My 'ask' is that they allow well prepared kids to skip Physical Science on the recommendation of their MS science teacher.

emeraldkity said...

My 'ask' is that they allow well prepared kids to skip Physical Science on the recommendation of their MS science teacher.

Which would be fine if every student had equal opportunities in middle school.

But if we think that there are " two Garfields" now, what will it be like when summer school is cut, when advanced courses have pre-reqs that students who aren't already ahead of the game will be able to meet?

Will that reduce the " achievement gap"?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Wow, reviewing the above, I wonder how much of this is driven by the movement to enroll every kid into as many AP/IB classes as possible in order to raise the USNews rankings of our HSs?"

Very good, Maureen.

Jan said...

Good point, emeraldkity.

It will reduce offerings, and increase the divide between the kids who have the pre-reqs and those who don't. Science already starts to split at the top levels. One of my kids took calc based physics. The other can't as he hasn't had calc. Some of this is inevitable, but it is being exascerbated for no good reason. Marine Science kids have to work their tails off, but there is no reason to think that they will do worse in that course if they haven't had some lame survey course in 9th grade. My impression (could be wrong) is that generally, no one at GHS takes AP chemistry who has not taken the regular course first. I also think there is (or was) a "general physical science" class available for 9th graders at GHS, but it seemed remedial and was targeted at a small subsection of kids they didn't think could (or kids who didn't want to) tackle Biology at 9th grade. Most kids (and NOT just those with a golden ticket from middle school science teachers) started with biology and did just fine. MY ask would be -- start with Biology unless they failed their last year of middle school science. Unless someone can show a correlation between success in (often bad or weak) middle school science classes and 9th grade biology, I don't think we should hang that around kids' necks.

zb said...

"Most kids (and NOT just those with a golden ticket from middle school science teachers) started with biology and did just fine. "

This really doesn't mean anything, if in fact, the material that was supposed to be taught in physical science was re-taught in chemistry & physics (as I suspect it was). Now, the worry here is that it will still be re-taught, but that kids will have to take the material twice (instead of just once).

But the goal is that Chem & Phys will be taught at a higher level, with the assumption that a quarter's worth of physics/chem material has already been taught in Physical Science. The Phys Science standards being used are quite solid, and if they were really taught in the 9th grade, the Chem & Phys classes could and should be taught differently than if the kids hadn't had that material.

Now, I do think that pushing that material to the 8th grade is completely possible and suspect that there are technical problems that prevent it (i.e. high school credits and what they mean, qualified teachers, access to materials, . . .).

My solution would be to offer Physical Science to every eight grader who wants it, as it's currently required for APP 7th graders. You can elect to take it in 8th grade, if you want to, you can count the class towards high school credit (including the grade). Or you can opt to take it again (or the first time) in high school.

Guppy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guppy said...

"requiring all kids to take Physical Science in 9th grade is that then the only real way for a kid planning a career in science to take anything the least bit 'above and beyond' is for them to take an AP level of the class."

What do you mean by above and beyond? Kids can take Horticulture, Oceanography, Astronomy, genetics, as electives can't they? As a freshman my son took Physical science and horticulture. As a sophomore he's taking Biology and Horticulture 2. For two years now he has had a double does of science. I don't particularly care if Horticulture is counted as science credit, as it always has, or if it is now counted as an elective, as long as it is still available to him. Am I missing something?

Eric M said...

Yes, you're missing a lot.

You're missing the administration's specious and ever-changing rationale for doing this.

You're missing the inability of district managers to manage this change without obfuscation, sense of purpose, or appreciation and replication of successful programs that already exist.

You're missing that it's all a big bungly rush, because as is so often the SPS case, it's driven by a grant that'll dry up rather than by a rational schedule. You're missing the idea of piloting any new program in a couple of places, to tweak it before dumping it on an entire district.

You're missing the idea of doing alignment from the ground up, as kids go through school. Kids grow UP, this alignment grows down. As constituted, it creates credit and schedule problems for year after year of kids.

You're missing the setting up of vast, (unpaid) labor-intensive hurdles for teachers marching through a "validation" process with the absurd goal of, for example, showing that BOTANY is actually just a BIOLOGY course. Then the teachers who prepared literally HUNDREDS of pages being told that the bureaucrats who insisted on the validation materials didn't have time to look through them, and there was in fact, no validation committee. You're missing the communication breakdown and lack of trust that exists between the folks in the trenches and those that wave their wands.

You're missing that with the shrinkage of options and the death of summer school and night school, there are literally NO OPTIONS FOR KIDS WHO FAIL. The mechanics of this are more complicated than I can explain here, but suffice to say that this came before the School Board a couple of months ago, and, glory be, they actually said "Wait a Minute." And they hardly ever do that.

You're missing that new textbook purchases in this current fiscal climate, where teachers are being RiFed and asked to take pay cuts and furloughs, is downright immoral.

And you're missing that, in the opinion of most SPS science teachers, whose opinion ought to matter for SOMETHING, the "alignment" as currently constituted will result in diminished student choices, a curtailing of innovation and creativity in teaching, and increased dropout rates.

SP said...

Guppy,
From a parent's perspective (who has one kid now in college), you are also missing the college application significence. Colleges prefer to see four years of science credits. Electives just don't carry the same weight. And especially, in 11th & 12th grade which classes (and a full plate) are important. So, yes, earning science credits for science classes is a big deal for students.

Bird said...

Colleges prefer to see four years of science credits. Electives just don't carry the same weight.

I can't imagine how SPS classifies the courses matters to colleges. If SPS is too stupid to call an Astronomy or Marine Biology program a science course, why would that affect anyone else?

As far as I can see, it only matters for SPS graduation requirements.

Fiona said...

As there are tons of posts online, I found yours interesting and well-observed. It really is less-hassle for the students who needs to adapt to the curriculum of a new school when they transfer. It is better this way because they can adapt easily and be able to learn a lot more on different topics, writing college papers and more.