What the professors said

Following up on yesterday’s post about Florida science professors wanting end-of-course tests rather than the 11th grade FCAT, here is the white paper they wrote and here is the list of folks who signed it. Below is the text of their statement:


Graduation Requirements and Assessment Policy for High School Science in Florida
May 25, 2009

A group of 106 college and university science faculty raised the alarm during this spring’s legislative session because of the exclusion of physics and/or Earth/space sciences from legislation regarding high school graduation requirements and the initiation of an end-of-course testing program.  It is generally agreed that the 11th grade science FCAT must be terminated and replaced with a comprehensive end-of-course assessment program.  The primary concern with HB 543 (the end-of-course testing legislation) was that while there was a definite schedule for implementation of the end-of-course biology test, there was no concrete schedule for implementation of end-of-course tests in other subjects.  Given the financial pressure on the FDOE (even in relatively good times) there was no guarantee that the tests in the other science subjects would ever be implemented.

When bills for upgrading high school graduation and the replacement of the 11th grade science FCAT are filed for the 2010 legislative session, they should:

1)  Specify a list of science courses in all fields that would be rigorous enough to count toward graduation, and require a statewide end-of-course test in each of them.  A list of 35 rigorous science courses from the FDOE science course list is given below and is arranged by the “Bodies of Knowledge” (BOK’s) used in the new state science standards (life sciences, Earth/space sciences, and physical sciences).  Students should be allowed to select from this list to fulfill their high school graduation requirements in science.  The list also includes a curriculum of Integrated Science courses used in some school districts.  While the number 35 may seem large, 17 are AP, IB or AICE courses.  The specification of “biology” in HB 1293 would have given a list of 8 acceptable courses.  The list grows to 35 simply by adding the corresponding courses in the other BOK’s – physical and Earth/space sciences – and in Integrated Science.  The list is given below.

2)  Specify that three science courses – including at least one from each BOK – be required for graduation, and that four be required for Bright Futures eligibility.  Taking the three-year Integrated Science or Honors Integrated science sequences would also qualify a student for graduation.

3)  Consider the possibility of using tests that are already generally available for the end-of-course testing program.  Of course, this is obvious for the AP, IB and AICE courses that are on the list.  However, it may be possible to use the SAT Subject tests in physics and chemistry for the end-of-course testing in those areas:  The College Board charges $15 per test, which is a cost comparable to that of the FCAT.  There is also an SAT Subject test in biology; however, it may not overlap enough with the new Florida standards in biology because our standards focus somewhat on Florida ecology.  It may also be possible to collaborate with other states in setting end-of-course exams.  For example, New York State has offered the Regents exam program for more than a century, and they might welcome a partnership.  If FDOE took advantage of all of these opportunities, it is possible that the department would have to maintain as few as five examinations in-house.

4)  Set a concrete schedule for implementation of end-of-course tests for each course on the list of acceptable science courses.  In any event, the entire end-of-course testing program should be fully implemented by the spring of 2013.

Concerns about science education in Florida extend far beyond the limits of graduation requirements and end-of-course testing.  It is clear that bringing Florida to a world-class level in K-12 science education will require a significant investment in teacher professional development.  We must work toward a program of professional development for the state’s 9,200 science teachers that represents the same level of effort as the “Just Read, Florida!” program that was so successful in raising the state’s achievement level in reading.  Ultimately, this would require $30 million per year on a permanent basis.

A proposed list of science courses acceptable for high school graduation (from the FDOE course list):

Life Sciences:  Biology 1, Biology 1 Honors, AICE Biology 1, AP Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Anatomy and Physiology Honors, IB Biology 2, IB Biology 3

Earth/Space Sciences:  Earth/Space Science, Earth/Space Science Honors, Astronomy Solar/Galactic, Astronomy Solar/Galactic Honors, Environmental Science, IB Environmental Systems, AP Environmental Science, AICE Environmental Management, AICE Marine Science

Physical Sciences:  Chemistry 1, Chemistry 1 Honors, AP Chemistry, AICE Chemistry 1, Physics 1, Physics 1 Honors, AP Physics B, AP Physics C, AICE Physics, IB Chemistry 2, IB Chemistry 3, IB Physics 3

Integrated Science:  Integrated Science 1, Integrated Science 1 Honors, Integrated Science 2, Integrated Science 2 Honors, Integrated Science 3, Integrated Science 3 Honors

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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