Friday, February 18, 2011

My Fault - Error on Science Thread

Lesson learned; never just skim through anything you post that you didn't write. That is what I did on the Science thread and I got something very wrong (although it doesn't really change my concerns).

I wrote that there were going to be 4 mandatory science courses to be taken for graduation. That is wrong.

The SPS graduation requirement is TWO science credits. One of them, by state law, has to be a lab science.

The 4 courses that the district says will meet that requirement after the science alignment are physical science, biology, chemistry and physics.

The issue still remains that many SPS high schools have other science courses that are popula and valid science courses. These include some from the 10-year program of Biotech at Ballard High School.

The idea that all these other science courses (save AP and IB courses) will have to go thru a process to validate them to replace one of the four current possibilities is troubling. It's troubling because if you read the narrative, you see that it looks like roadblocks are being thrown up by the district to validate any course. Why could they not have a clear process for validation for any and all science courses?

My apologies for the confusion.


anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

So, how is this a bad thing? Kids can get their two years of science credits in with Physical science and Biology or Biology and Chemistry. If they want to take one or two more years of science they can take Chemistry and/or Physics. They can also, at any time, take Horticulture, Astronomy, Genetics, Oceanography, etc as electives.

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.

Eric M said...
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peonypower said...

As a result of this alignment very few freshman will be able to take biology freshman year (as many are ready to do). If by chance they are able- the only choices open to them after that are physics and chemistry. Okay- so now we have more students who must take chemistry in order to fulfill their graduation requirement. Keep in mind that many schools simply do not have the facilities to offer more chemistry classes. Ballard high school has 3 teachers who teach chemistry out of one lab. That lab has 11 sections that use it. You cannot teach chemistry in a room without proper facilities (a fume hood, bunsen burners gas outlets, sinks etc.) Not all science classrooms come equipped with all of these bells and whistles. The district alignment proposal has not looked down the road to see what the outcome of this narrowing of choices means in the schools. Electives like horticulture will be pushed out by the required courses. It is simple FTE math, more sections of biology mean less FTE for electives. The elective classes will disappear.

Oh, and there will be no options for students who fail except to retake classes. Seniors in freshman integrated science- yeah that is a great idea.

The whole plan is half baked, prevents advanced students from jumping ahead, and has no options for struggling students.

none1111 said...

The whole plan is half baked, prevents advanced students from jumping ahead, and has no options for struggling students.

Hey I think you just summarized the district's overall strategic plan in one sentence!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Guppy, if not enough students have the time to take the electives (due to fulfilling other required classes and maybe being in music), they won't have those electives. It is a lot cheaper and easier to have four basic science classes and call it a day.

Given that generally more kids are interested in art, we could end up with schools that have a lot of ceramics, music, drama, etc. and very few science electives. Not that arts are bad but in this STEM-happy new ed reform, you'd think have varied science classes would be important.

But if there aren't the bodies to support the class, the class will go away.

SP said...

(this is a copy from the earlier post to/from 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.

And Melissa,
Thanks for straightening out the 4 vs 2 science credits question!

Chris S. said...

Melissa, perhaps there is a reason for your confusion - per Michael DeBell this morning, apparently the district wanted to require 3 science classes but have been talked down to two.

Also, the conversation is ongoing, so letters to the district (CAO) would be timely, as you initially suggested. I'm still figuring out how to distill Eric & Peony's info into simple talking points, but I'm at least going to say I don't want to see any science options go away.

SP said...

Chris- that is interesting that the district was talking about 3 science credits- how recent was that?

In 2008 when the CORE 24 push started up, Seattle was at the state's bottom- requiring only 20 credits to graduate (along with only 1 other very small district). By far the majority of districts (62) required 22 credits to graduate, with the next highest (43 districts) required 23 credits.

Additionally, of interest:
20 Districts required 3 English credits (incl. Seattle) vs a whopping 226 districts requiring 4 credits.

148 districts required 2 math credits (incl. Seattle) vs 96 districts requiring 3 credits.

199 districts required 2 science credits (incl. Seattle) vs 46 districts required 3 credits.

From this, it appears that Seattle needs to think about requiring 4 English credits (also a standard for college admissions) long before considering more science requirements.