Science Curriculum Alignment, Part Two

Here is the final section of the thread on the high school science curriculum alignment.

Again, ALL parents, you may not be here yet but believe me, you will care deeply about this when your child gets to high school. But if you are an elementary parent and you shrug now, then when you get there, no fair asking why science in SPS high schools is so limited. Tell the Board you are worried and want a wide variety of science classes available. (Also, ask the Board to not let the district systematically dismantle the BioTech program at Ballard.)

Part Two

Currently the district is still proposing that all 9th graders take physical science, 10th graders take biology, and then chemistry and physics or a science elective.

These are the issues that schools are facing as result of this proposal:

1) What will happen to students who do not pass the first two classes? Will they simply retake those courses over and over? If so what does this do to upper level science class selection.

2) What about students who are accelerated students, currently only students in the APP program or those who test out of physical science at Ballard will be able to take accelerated science.

3) What happens to successful programs such as the marine science program at Garfield and the Ballard Biotech academy? Will these programs be scrapped?

4) Who will validate a class, by what standards will it be validated, what happens if it is not validated, and who will create and teach credit recovery courses and will this be achieved in the time frame necessary (one year.)

5) What happens to extraordinary courses such as Astronomy, Environmental science, Botany, Genetics, Oceanography, and many others being offered by the district as the definition of “science classes” shrinks. The pressure to get rid of these courses to offer more of the big 4 will result in a narrowing of science choices for all students.

I am including links to district documents as well as the superintendent’s remarks on science alignment released in here recent powerpoint.

Answer from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson: The purpose of alignment and eliminating some courses is intended to ensure that all students have courses that teach rigorous career and college ready standards, thereby supporting all students in their preparation for post-secondary choices.

In science, as in other content areas, we are proposing a sequence of courses that provide foundational content and skills in order to ensure students have the prerequisite knowledge to go more deeply into all sciences. The proposed sequence is physical science (8th grade), biology, chemistry, and physics. This sequence of courses is common in many of the top-performing districts we used to benchmark our curriculum alignment work.

All other science courses may be taken for elective credit and/or teachers may request that a syllabus from alternative courses be validated to demonstrate the course aligns to college and career ready standards so that it may replace one of the courses in the sequence. An example of this would be marine biology validated to demonstrate it teaches the biology standards and can therefore be taken in place of a basic biology course.


Jet City mom said…
I am not a science teacher- however, I had a daughter take biology as a 9th grader & marine bio in 10th @ Garfield. ( at the same time her sister was majoring in bio in college- at Reed)

Biology is a demanding field- while I suppose you could rush through intro bio fall term, in order to get to marine science , it would diminish the course- as to truly get to the level of depth & understanding that the students are capable of, you need the full sequence of two years.

Another school my daughter was interested in for high school was Nathan Hale. At that time, they taught astro-bio, something that her sister was interested in for grad school.

It was exciting to think of a high school offering that focus & a public high school at that!

Sciences in the middle schools are weak ( depending on teacher), it was all my child could do to hang onto her interest until high school, to think about losing some of the best programs in the city for such a poor excuse as " alignment" is nauseating.

Decades of tweaking by some of the best teachers in the region have gone into the Garfield marine science course-that work should be valued, not eviscerated.
SP said…
Melissa- There is a difference from what you are saying (from the curriculum meetings?) about Physical science being required for 9th grade vs. what MJG's response was quoted-
"The proposed sequence is physical science (8th grade), biology, chemistry, and physics".

Thus, what would be the required high school science credits? In the Part 1 section posted earlier on the blog, I wrote that the current OSPI/State (and SPS) requirements are simply 2 science credits, with at least 1 of the 2 credits in a lab science.
Maureen said…
From the MGJ quote above:
The proposed sequence is physical science (8th grade),....

That was a mistake on Dr.GJ's part, I emailed Elaine Woo (Head of Science at SPS)about it in December and she said that Dr.GJ should have said 9th grade not 8th.

I also talked to Ms. Woo at the SCPTSA meeting about two weeks ago and she said they they in no way intended the alignment to slow down advanced learners and that they plan some how and some time to provide a way for 9th graders to place out of Physical Science, but no one has time to work on it right now.

I told her that not even the counselors and teachers have been told anything about that and she said they needed to work harder at that.

I'm not saying I believe this will ever happen-I'm just reporting what Ms. Woo told me.
dj said…
Where I grew up the high school science sequence was just that (physical science, biology, chemistry, physics), but there was a placement test that would permit you to opt out of the physical science class and start with biology freshman year. This permitted you to take an additional science class your senior year, and about 1/2 the college-prep track students did so.

If my poor, rural school district could figure it out, surely Seattle can. Right?
Anonymous said…
My interpretation of this is that, once again, Seattle Schools under Goodloe-Johnson are interested in "Excellence for none, mediocrity for all."

Another example of how "alignment" is being used to punish schools who had the audacity to challenge students, and hold them to high standards.

In the name of the achievement gap, the superintendent's plan seems to be to hold no one to a high standard, but to instead lower standards, offerings and courses for everyone.

How insulting.


Tired of it
anonymous said…
Will 4 years of science (Physical sci/bio/chem/physics) now be required for HS graduation?

If so, how can that be? OSPI only requires students to take 2 years of science to graduate high school, as SPS always has. Am I understanding this right? Is SPS moving the HS graduation requirement from 2 years of science to 4 years of science?
Jet City mom said…
This sequence of courses is common in many of the top-performing districts we used to benchmark our curriculum alignment work.

Eyebrow raised.

University Place district- where a nephew & niece attended- I would consider to be a " high performing district", whats more - it is in our region.

University Place offers Biology & AP, Physics & AP, Chemistry & AP, &...Marine Science & Anatomy-Physiology.

Lake Washington high school- which I attended offers-
Biology & AP, Chemistry & AP, Physics & AP. They also offer Environmental Science & AP, & semester long courses of : Materials Science ( an elective), Forensic Science, Genetics, & two semesters of Marine Science.

I am starting to wonder what are these "top districts" that require freshman to take a generalized physical science course?

In the districts I mentioned- biology is the course taken by 9th graders interested in science.
Bird said…
Here are the University of Washington admission requirements for high school students:

A minimum of two years of laboratory science are required. At least one of the two years must be in biology, chemistry, or physics. Students typically take this full year course in two successive high school semesters. Additionally, at least one of the two years of laboratory science must be an algebra-based science course. The principles of technology courses taught in Washington State high schools may apply toward the laboratory science requirement. Additionally, courses identified by the school district as laboratory science courses -- e.g., astronomy, environmental science, geological science, genetics, marine science -- may also apply toward the additional year of laboratory science requirement.

I don't understand why SPS science offerings have to be so rigid.

I imagine that the point of the HS allignment is that these approved science courses are foundational.

You need to understand some physics and chemistry to go on to study other sciences, though biology doesn't strictly seem necessary, so I'm a little baffled as to why it's the required science course.

I wonder whether the SPS adminstrators making these decisions hold degrees in the sciences. I do, and my experience leads me to believe that this science "allignment" is unnecessary.

I took all these courses in high school and again in college, and I don't, strictly speaking, think the high school courses were necessary to go on an succeed in a college science or engineering program.

I'm sure it doesn't hurt to have exposure in high school, but the introductory college courses in physics, chemistry and biology were exactly that, introductory. They covered all the basics, so as far as I'm concerned none of these courses are necessary in high school. Much of the course work will simply be repeated in the first year of college, except that it will be more rigorous.

Given that, I think a well developed high school course that allows students to explore different fields and generates enthusiasm for science are probably more valuable than the fundamental courses.
Rose M said…
I think the district's goals are to increase drop out rates among struggling students, decrease any interested in science among successful students and push exceptional teachers out of the district.

I thought innovation was suppose to be a big goal of the reform movement. Why does MGJ keep destroying any innovation she finds here?

It seems like the district spends more time dismantling excellence than building up areas of weakness.
The only bright spot here is that on the budget documents they had a place where they may cut back on budgeting for this alignment (and so, the process would slow down).

Thank you to those who had the answers to questions. I didn't catch that MGJ error as I didn't write the piece.
SP said…
The basic question still hasn't been answered that I see (in either post)- are there really going to be four science requirements in Seattle to graduate (physical science, biology, chemistry & physics) or is that these 4 classes are the recommended (science credited)classes if a student should choose to go for all science credits each year?

If 4 are required as you mentioned, that is doubling the current SPS (and OSPI) requirement of 2 science classes with at least one a lab science. This is a huge change, even more than the CORE 24 proposal (3 science/2 with lab credits, phased in only with funding by no sooner than 2018...). Will that change the total 19 credits requirement for Seattle high school graduation (soon to be 20 with a 3rd math requirement), or will it wipe out one of the few elective slots? How will students who are struggling succeed in both Chemestry & Physics in order to graduate if indeed 4 science classes are a graduation requirement?

Finally, from what Maureen mentioned about "placing out" option for Physical Science for some kids doing well in 8th grade science, how would that work if physical science is a credit requirement (and not a high school accredited course offered in 8th grade)?
Bird said…
I was under the impression from the previous discusson on this blog that the district is not requiring everyone to take 4 years of science, but that the only courses that count as "science" credits are physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics, and that they want to require a sequence that for phyisical science in 9th and biology in 10th. grade.

Is that right, Melissa? I looked at the page you linked to about the science alignment, but it contains essentially no information. I don't know if the old website included some relevant information. It currently just redirects to the SPS website.

I'd love it if someone could point us to SPS published documents about the alignment. Otherwise, I feel I'm just basing all my assumptions on rumor, and I don't feel like I can legitimately take up advocacy based on rumor.
Jan said…
Thanks for your clarifying post on the science stuff, Melissa. There is so much confusing information out there, and this process is so rushed, that it is hard to keep it all straight.

A couple of random thoughts (or facts):
First, I suspect that one reason that Marine Science at GHS may not be able to be "validated" is that it is partl;y marine biology, and partly other aspects of marine science. They spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year doing cosmology; the fall field trip to Eastern Washington relates more to marine geology. It has been a couple of years since I have had a child in the class, so I have forgotten exactly what the syllabus covers, but it goes beyond biology. THEN, they move into all the fish, sponges, seaworms, marine vertibrates, etc., etc. As far as I know, NO one takes it without taking Biology first (unless they come in as sophomores from some lame District that had them take physical science, rather than Biology in 9th grade :>)) I guess I don't know if GHS would have them take Marine Science at that point, or whether they would send them off to take Biology with the freshmen. It is interesting to note all the districts people mention that start with biology. Presumably, if some hapless SSD kid moves to one of THOSE districts, he/she will then be a year behind his peers for the rest of high school, as he will have to go back and take the Biology that they all took as 9th graders.

On "validation" and "alignment" generally -- what the District is proposing is so lame and so bureaucratically stupid that it just makes me nuts. The teachers who teach the creative cources (astrobiology, marine science, genetics, etc. etc.) know what they teach and what kids foundationally need. They work within the schools to place the courses at the right level so that if kids need a full year of biology first (as at Garfield), it is structured that way. I was always under the impression that they inserted the Marine Science/Genetics/Environmental Science courses at the sophomore year to give more kids a chance to get algebra behind them before Chemistry, and to get calculus behind them, or at least underway, before embarking on calc-based physics.
Left at the schools' levels -- it all makes so dang much sense. Dragged up the district bureaucractic level, it is all so screwed up and dumbed down.

We have some high school science teachers who are SO stellar, and some schools that are SO on top of coming up with really great courses. The Rocketry stuff at Ingraham, the list just goes on and on. I wish that the District would leave what works alone. Or that their job would be (as MGJ intimated when she started this whole harebrained project) to go into schools where stuff clearly ISN'T working, or doesn't exist, and try to seed and support improvement there. All those lies about how, if schools were working well, the District would leave them alone -- and only "struggling" schools would be required to accept District mandated guidance and change.

All this would make a great deal more sense (and be much less palatable) if the District would move physical science down to 8th grade, make it a lab course, and "qualify" it for HS credit. Also -- my impression (from WMS years ago, so maybe it has changed) that where science help IS needed may be at the middle school level. APP kids got more science that other WMS kids, but the whole science curriculum seemed weaker than the math and humanities offerings.
Jet City mom said…
I'm sure it doesn't hurt to have exposure in high school, but the introductory college courses in physics, chemistry and biology were exactly that, introductory. They covered all the basics, so as far as I'm concerned none of these courses are necessary in high school.

But considering that you need to take biology, calc & chemistry freshman year of college to choose either a bio or chem major, wouldn't you be having a pretty hard time, if you had not had exposure in high school?
peonypower said…
Okay- I am fascinated by the district science page- it does not mention what the current alignment sequence is. Funny, because the old district page did. I wonder why?

What all schools have been told is that 9th graders will take physical science, 10th graders biology. Those will be the courses that students use to fulfill their science requirements. Physics and Chemistry will also count as science credits as well as any AP or IB class (I would guess that this is in preparation for the future core 24 3 year science requirement. ) . Why they have chosen to exclude all upper level science courses from this list is beyond me.

The district has claimed that this will not slow down accelerated students, but so far no one knows how students will by pass physical science with the "test". Schools are frustrated, counselors are frustrated, and parents are frustrated. Keep in mind that master scheduling begins in March for schools.

The whole plan needs to be figured out before it is put in place. It is more of the chaos that is standard MO for MGJ. Also the part about our superintendent not knowing what the proposed alignment was supposed to be and putting out a power point with the wrong grade level for physical science demonstrates how uninformed the whole system is.
Anonymous said…
Here is what I do not understand. When I was in high school, we had physical science in the 9th grade. There must have been some way to test out of it because many students took AP science classes senior year. I wanted AP physics and had not tested out, so I took chemistry in summer school.

AP physics (or biology or chemistry) was something you would take AFTER taking the regular course. Is that not the case anymore? Does the AP class substitute for the regular one? That makes no sense to me!

(sorry this is a bit off-topic)
Eric B said…
So is there no Earth Science in the curriculum? There is Earth Science on the 10th grade MSP that is (someday?) supposedly going to be required for HS graduation. While I like the options, I must say that our current science curriculum doesn't seem to be working well. Perhaps someone could find out if those students who participate in the courses like marine bio that would not fall into this alignment do better later on in science. One would think that more engaged students might demonstrate higher performance, but I am constantly surprised at things I think would be true are not.
Jan said…
Also, Eric -- Marine Science starts with cosmology and has a healthy dose of earth science (ocean formation, atmospheric science, etc.) in it. The last half (and the part the kids love most) is Marine Biology, but the course is much more than biology (which is why they probably couldn't squeeze it into the glass slipper of a biology waiver.

But your other point is really a good one: I would love to get an idea of how kids who have access to the many great District science courses do, as compared to the District average, in science.

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