Should Florida students be allowed to graduate with only one science course?

A bill filed in the Florida senate has very serious implications for science and math education: Proposed bill would allow Florida students to ditch advanced math for industry certifications

State Senator Travis Hutson (R-St. Johns) introduced a bill last week that, if passed, would dramatically change traditional four-year graduation requirements for high school students by doing away with the requirement to pass some advanced math and science courses.

The reason behind the bill is to allow students to focus on being workforce ready, not college ready. Sen. Hutson said:

“We are forcing districts to take children that probably can’t pass some of these classes and just make them try. The children suffer, they get frustrated,”

The news article is rather misleading. The story keeps referring to “advanced” math and science courses.

“Under my proposed bill, you only have to take 18 total courses and in math, you don’t have to pass Algebra II, you can replace that with an industry certification course that is more technical and career-focused,”

Is Algebra II really considered advanced? I tend to think calculus, probability/statistics, trigonometry and such are the advanced courses, but I could be wrong. I’m not a math teacher.

But the story only makes the one mention of “advanced science courses” without elaborating. So, we need to read the bill to see what’s going on there: SB 770. (I’ve emphasized the key part in bold.)

31 (a) In order for a student to satisfy the requirements of
32 the CTE pathway option, a student must:
56 3. Complete three credits in science. Two of the three
57 required credits must have a laboratory component. A student
58 must earn one credit in Biology I and two credits in equally
59 rigorous courses. The statewide, standardized Biology I EOC
60 assessment constitutes 30 percent of the student’s final course
61 grade. A student who earns an industry certification for which
62 there is a statewide college credit articulation agreement
63 approved by the State Board of Education may substitute the
64 certification for two science credits, except for Biology I;

Wow. A student taking this path to a diploma can get out of high school with only one science course. One.

This bill cuts out one math course, allowing a student to graduate with two math credits instead of three. No other subjects take cuts in credits in this bill. But science? Two can be cut, allowing a student to graduate with one science credit instead of three.

The news article referred to the science credits being cut as “advanced” science courses. No, this isn’t cutting anything advanced. This is cutting ALL science other than the state mandated biology course.

Is that a good idea? Will a student graduating under this program really be career ready? How about life ready? We already have a problem with general science literacy (The less people understand science, the more afraid of GMOs they are; What is climate science literacy?; A Look at What the Public Knows and Does Not Know About Science; Almost a third of Brits people STILL don’t believe Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, survey finds). Do we really need to make it worse?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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