High School Science Curriculum "Alignment"

From the School District web site:

Apparently a whole lot of work has been done to completely re-vamp the high school science curriculum. And now that all of the work has been done and all of the decisions have been made, the District is ready to engage the public.

High School Science Alignment

Improving diversity in science and STEM-related career fields requires focus on K-12 learning opportunities. A change in Washington state science requirements for high school graduates is a step toward sowing the seeds of diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Beginning with the freshmen class (Class of 2021), all Seattle Public Schools high school students will be required to have three credits (three years) of science courses to meet Washington state standards. This is an increase from the requirement of two science credits for those who graduate in with the Class of 2020. The first two years of science will provide a strong underpinning of science content and skills to open up several pathways for the required third year so that ALL students can succeed and follow their interests.

In addition to the additional course work, students will be required to pass the Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science as a graduation requirement at the end of their junior year. This examination will be based on the new Washington State Science Standards (also known as the Next Generation Science and Engineering Standards) which were adopted in 2013.

New High School Science Requirements

The current and new course sequence are:

Current Requirements
9th Grade: Physical Science
10th Grade: Biology and Biology B
11th Grade: none

New Science Requirements for Class of 2021 and Beyond
9th Grade: Physics A and Chemistry A
10th Grade: Biology A and Biology B
11th Grade: Physics B, Chemistry B
11th Grade: Advanced Path: HC, AP or IB science
11th Grade: Alternative Path: Science Elective or Career and Technical Education

Because high school students will now have to take three years of science instead of two, the High School Alignment Team has already begun re-arranging standards taught in 9th and 10th grade to help prepare students to successfully take the third year of science and pass the state science exam.

The Alignment Team bundled the standards into six one-semester courses. Each course includes content in either biology, chemistry or physics (Biology A, Biology B, Chemistry A, Chemistry B, Physics A and Physics B). Embedded in each course are the new earth and space science standards as well as engineering, technology and application skills that are a part of the new state standards.

Physics A and Chemistry A are conceptual in content, and the math covered in each would be what students had taken to that point in ninth grade. According to school board policy 2026 and superintendent procedure 2026SP, the A and B courses are not new, but rather a re-alignment of current chemistry, physics and biology course content to align to the new standards, and therefore do not go through a review process.

Seattle Teachers Collaborate to Build Science Alignment Process and Timeline

The district’s Science Department has been preparing for students to meet new state standards the past four years through collaboration of teachers of physics, chemistry and biology.

Additionally, the SPS Science Department commissioned a High School Alignment Team to discuss how to meet the new state graduation requirements. The Alignment Team included representatives from representatives from every comprehensive high school in the district and science content specialists represented from biology, chemistry, physics and earth and space science.

The team commenced Spring 2015 to analyze the standards and determine what was needed for alignment. Each member of the team has contributed over 120 hours to this project.

The six proposed courses were taken to each high school for teacher input and review in May 2017, with the intent to come to agreement on the necessary curriculum for each of these six semester courses. Collaboration time was afforded teachers of biology, chemistry and physics during the Summer 2017 to augment the current collaboration teams in these disciplines. Collaborations were open to all teachers of chemistry, physics and biology.

Alignment Timeline

Spring 2013: Washington state adopts new science standards

Fall 2014: Department heads meeting to discuss alignment. Department heads recommend each school has a representative to study alignment and make recommendations

Spring 2015 - Present: Alignment team begins work of studying new standards. Work with authors of Science Frameworks (UW), discourse strategies (IFL Pittsburgh), work with UW to develop 3D assessments

Spring 2017 - Fall 2017: High School Alignment Team recommends scope and sequence

Summer 2017: All high school science teachers invited to participate in the development teams to review content bundles, adapt curriculum to the storyline within the standard bundles and to develop 3D assessments.

Fall 2017: Revised courses created

Fall 2017: High school science sequence determined

January 2018: Science program manager meets with high school counselors and registrars

January 2018: Family engagement sessions
Spring 2020: High School Juniors take Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science High Stakes Assessment


Eric M said…
At Ballard High School, we're calculating that we'll need to offer 30 to 35 sections of the 9th grade classes. It even looks like the 9th graders who this year placed out of 9th grade Physical Science and into Biology (normally offered for 10th graders) will be mandated to take the 9th grade PhyA/Chem A sequence. That'll take more than half of our department's teachers, and require much of the Chemistry teaching to be taught in non-Chemistry equipped rooms (we only have one Chem lab) These teachers will be pulled from existing classes, so we expect that most of our awesome electives, developed and taught by teacher experts, will have to be cut. AP Chemistry, AP Biology, BioTech Academy classes (and the BT Academy itself), UWHS Astronomy 101, Botany, Horticulture, Oceanography: all are on the chopping block. If that sounds bad, well, here's even worse: we DON'T EVEN KNOW, and have received no data to help guide this massive curriculum adoption. 8th grade choice night is February 8th, and we can't advise parents on what their incoming student might even be able to take.

BTW, principals and the school board have had little involvement with this process either. Direct your questions to the JSCEE.
Anonymous said…
Will the Biotech Academy - for those currently in it (I've got a 10th grader currently in the program) be dissolved??

QA Parent
QA Parent, write to the Board and tell them that this kind of big change without notice to parents nor explanation (until very late in the game) is wrong.

I suspect the district is moving to dissolve the program and make the schools very like each other (except for whatever the principals want because they are the kings of their castles).
Anonymous said…
Eric M, how could there be 30 - 35 sections of one class? With 30 students per class, that would mean 900 to 1050 students taking this one course. That doesn't seem possible unless ALL the current 9th graders will be made to take this class in 10th grade, which seems unlikely. I suspect I am not understanding something properly.

Mom of 4
Anonymous said…
Biotech Academy requires students to take 3 science courses: bio, chem, genetics. This meets the 3-year required science credit coursework the state requires. As for the new test, if the kids also need conceptual physics, that could be taken as an elective one of the 3 years. Or, Ballard could reconfigure its science requirements for the classes and have them take the new standard 9-11 courses, with genetics required in the 4th year. Mandating entering the program as freshmen instead of sophomores means they could still group the kids together over those 3 years and give all the required courses a Biotech Academy twist on the standard courses. Yes it would take some work and yes there may need to be more staff hired with discretionary school money to maintain both the Biotech Academy and the new standard sequences. But with a strong demand for the Biotech Academy and a staff that backs the program, the Ballard Principal can and should make it happen.

And if JSCEE staff in ways academic or financial tries to hamper maintenance of the academy, the community can and should stand up. Because that would be beyond ridiculous. The program, the teachers, the student enthusiasm are the best of what public school can be and must not be dismantled.

I remember when other new standards threatened to wash out the excellent Garfield science offerings. To my knowledge the staff and community pushed back and the best of that program such as marine biology remains intact.

There is nothing wrong with having all kids take 3 years of science. It is important in our modern world. But when standards are causing more harm than good to established, superior programs or pathways, exceptions and workarounds MUST be supported by JSCEE. I imagine this applies to IB also.

Anonymous said…
I would like to know if HCC will be on a different path or same path. There are problems with both so I just want to know now. Maybe Melissa can start a separate HCC thread on this if a lot of HCC families start commenting? Don't want to dominate the thread but want to know. Looked at the JSCEE alignment webpage but found nothing.

science mom
Anonymous said…
(reposting from the other science post)
If there is no equal access to special program academies (like biotech), because they truly are based on geographic boundaries and there are no longer choice seats available to others, then we should indeed have consistency across schools, and stop these special academies that only benefit students from one area (yes, I'd include language immersion in this).

Maybe it would be possible to have the 3 HCC pathway schools be aligned and the non-HCC pathway schools be aligned. Couldn't Lincoln, Garfield and West Seattle be consistent with each other?
Is this so hard?
Anonymous said…
@science mom- Pending board vote, Lincoln would likely open as a geosplit from Garfield, along with new HC Lincoln boundary assigned 9th & 10th HC. 10th grade HC who are not reassigned via boundary and in neighborhood schools of BHS & RHS etc will likely have an assignment to Lincoln in 2019 in this plan according to discussions with board members at recent community meetings. I think that is the best bet for planning for curriculum to be there for 9th and 10th HCC kids in 2019. Current 7th and 8th cannot rely on BHS or RHS or any other school that is not a designated pathway in 2019. Of course the amendment coming down the pike can also affect things as well for future HCC beyond 7th and 8th (but hoping will not pass) so maybe HCC will not have curriculum anywhere.
Anonymous said…
I had emailed the district's scoence program mgr about al this last week, and will share what I heard back in a couple hours. It's a messy process, for sure, and the answers re: HCC are even less clear.

Answer seeker
SPS mom said…
From what I have heard, the demands of this changed curriculum will necessitate the ending of the biotech academy for all students starting fall '18. So yes.
Anonymous said…
HCC students will need the physical science information. SPS isn't doing middle school science alignment so they won't be getting it there. Guessing SPS may have to slightly cave on standardization and offer a track like Physical Science, Honors/AP Biology, Honors/AP Chemistry, Calc/Honors Calc/AP Calc or other science elective. This could do double duty as an appropriate sequence for non-HCC science-minded students.

Might that sequence would also work for the BioTech Academy or science heavy Garfield?

Feeling like parents will have to go to bat here and in short order.

Central Mom
These are decisions that require board approval. If staff are using loopholes to sneak around that approval, then I expect our board members to act quickly to close those loopholes.

Once again we see JSCEE staff acting like they run the district. This will continue until we get a school board willing to stand up to the staff and stop them from doing this. I eagerly await the board's action to correct this.
Anonymous said…
Central Mom,

HCC students already take Physical Science in 7th grade and Biology in 8th. Unless this is going to change, they should be able to skip the first two years of the new science courses. They are ready for Honors Chemistry, AP Bio, Marine Biology or another science elective in 9th grade.

Fairmount Park
Anonymous said…
@Fairmount Park: Physical Science and Conceptual Physics aren't the same. See the other thread where I just wrote about this.

Physics Fan
z said…
I remember when other new standards threatened to wash out the excellent Garfield science offerings. To my knowledge the staff and community pushed back and the best of that program such as marine biology remains intact.

This is only partly true. The genetics class fell victim a few years ago due to "standards alignment". Consequently, the school lost the instructor, who had specialized knowledge, and the class has never returned.

Administrative decisions like this have real and lasting consequences.
James Wagar said…
Hi everyone,

Magnolia for Ballard High School (Magnolia4BHS), the advocacy group formed to influence the high school boundary discussion, is rebranding as Magnolia for Better High Schools and out next issue is fighting the science curriculum "alignment" and preventing any negative impact on existing programs and academies.

Through our work on boundaries and most recently Resolution 10, we have met many families from all areas of the city with whom our interests are closely aligned.

I invite anyone who holds common concerns to join with us to coordinate and amplify your efforts.

We are reachable via our Facebook page at facebook.com/magnolia4bhs.


Marianne Bryan said…
Regarding HCC and science...
As a parent and a scientist, I would like Seattle Schools to rethink which students are allowed access to advanced science classes. I do not understand how SPS justifies the current status quo where science is gated by HCC status in schools that have HCC programs, but is open to all who are interested and have the will to learn in schools without HCC programs. Either the way HCC designation is assigned needs to change to take into account abilities in science, or science needs to no longer fall into the HCC program, but rather be open to all students with the desire to advance their science education. In many ways, the need for advanced science classes to match each students trajectory follows the needs of these same students to take the advanced math that matches a particular student's ability and desire to learn. Ironically, even though math is part of the testing for HCC, students track in advanced math outside of the HCC program. It's time that science also not be restricted to HCC status, but rather be open to the students who have aptitude in this particular subject.
Anonymous said…

Can you please provide an example of how advanced science is "gated"? I haven't heard of this before, so I'm curious as to what is your evidence.

WSMom said…
So when does this new alignment curriculum take place. Is it next year? I just learned about this as my kids are younger but have a high interest in science so I'm trying to play a bit of catch up.
Marianne Bryan said…
Regarding HCC science being gated--my evidence comes from the middle school level (Hamilton-HIMS), which then impacts access to advanced science in HS. My 2-year ahead in math child who is labeled "only" an advanced learner by SPS was not allowed to take advanced science in middle school because those classes were ONLY for children in the HCC program. She has reading and writing disabilities, as well as asynchronous development (working memory is 3 standard deviations below her fluid reasoning IQ subtest score), so by their rigid standards, she was not "able" to be in the HCC program (really sounds like disability discrimination, right?!). Anyhow, I was finally able to get her into 7th grade HCC science as an 8th grade student. The administration allowed this because some parents had previously pushed for students in Algebra to get to be in 7th grade HCC science in another building (Washington maybe). So, my very smart kid, who was taking Geometry, was "allowed" to take advanced science after I pushed really hard for nine months. So...HCC acts as a gate for access to advanced science courses.
At Ballard HS she would have been allowed in Biology as a freshman regardless of having taken "Physical Sciences" (HCC 7th grade science), but none of the administrators knew that this was the case and insisted she had to take 7th grade HCC science instead of just going into 8th grade HCC science with her peers.
As we all know, the science curriculum builds, the sooner you get the basic classes out of the way, the sooner you can get into the more advanced and more interesting classes in high school.
I know this is not the exact problem that everyone else is interested in talking about now, but it is highly related. Access to advanced science in SPS needs to be based on interest and ability, not HCC testing.
And yes, we need to keep physics and chemistry as separate full year classes--this move by SPS must be stopped, but we should use it to open up the dialogue on science and how it is restricted based on HCC as we're doing this.
Marianne Bryan said…
p.s. 8th grade HCC science is Biology
ScienceMom said…
From Ballard HS BIology Teacher

25 January 2018
Dear students and families:
We are almost at the end of first semester, and I am so proud of the work that students have been doing this year. Students have been exploring the world through experiments and investigations. Every day, they ask fabulous questions, trying to understand more. My students are funny and amazing, and it is an honor and privilege to teach them this year.
I’m writing you now, because the district is actively working to entirely change Seattle Public Schools science curriculum. These changes are scheduled to take place for the 2018-19 school year, affecting all students. Our current understanding of the plan:
All incoming freshmen will be assigned to “Chem A/Phys A.” While this seems similar to the previous Physical Science course, the curriculum will be limited to 3-4 units per semester.
All current freshmen who are taking biology will also be assigned to “Chem A/Phys A” in their sophomore year.
For Ballard, this will require the elimination of most elective science courses (Botany, Oceanography, Genetics, AP Bio, AP Chem, and others) to cover the staffing requirements.
The current math-linked full-year chemistry & physics courses will be eliminated. In their junior year, students will be required to take “Chem B/Phys B.” Curriculum for these courses is not available, but these courses will not have a math prerequisite. They will also be limited to 3-4 units per semester
Students may take AP classes (if offered) in their senior year, but will not have the foundation year of chemistry or physics that currently prepares them for AP science courses.
The district is implementing these changes without following any established processes for curriculum change. They have not followed the curriculum change process detailed on the district website. They have not honored the union agreement for building-based decision making. They have not followed communications requirements that the district agreed to address race & equity issues.
If you have questions or concerns about this curriculum change, please directly contact Mary Margaret Welch and the district leaders listed below. When you write to these leaders, please ask for more transparency and concrete details.
Ask to see the case studies and statistical data they claim support this curriculum change.
Ask for detailed information on how race & equity issues have been addressed and will be addressed.
Ask for direct communication from university admissions personnel that they will accept non-math-linked science courses on transcripts.
Ask to see specific descriptions of the curriculum and units.
Ask for a detailed family communication plan, including times and locations for meetings.
Contact information
school board
Mary Margaret Welch, science program manager
Eden Mack, District IV representative
Kyle Kinoshita, chief of curriculum & instruction
Leslie Harris, school board president
Sincerely Yours,

Noam Gundle, Ballard HS Science
(full disclosure- this letter was written my esteemed colleague Ms. Melissa Anne Povey, in consultation with department members, and adapted by me. I agree with everything written above, and the science department largely agrees as well.)
Anonymous said…
I agree with Marianne that we are unnecessarily restricting science, but I want to know why we are ALSO unnecessarily restricting humanities classes and have accepted this one size fits all paradigm without a fight. My child is not in HCC and not especially interested in STEM but IS interested in history, geography, and literature. But instead of being able to pursue those interests in high school like he would if he was interested in STEM, he is placed in one size fits all classes pretty much all the way through with hardly any choice.

Anonymous said…
Marianne, you have my empathy.

It definitely sounds like disability discrimination. Perhaps an advocacy group, SPED Ombudsman or even more expediently a lawyer could help.

For high school, HCC status is not a barrier to taking accelerated classes such as AP or IB, so I'm surprised it's happening in middle school.

Do you think this is a site specific misinterpretation of advanced course access?


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