With an 8 to 0 vote in the Florida senate education committee yesterday, SB 770 cleared its first hurdle after undergoing several changes. Despite an overhaul of the bill and a couple of amendments tacked on, our key concern about science education requirements for graduation getting sliced and diced is still there.
A quick recap: SB 770 (and its companion in the house HB 661) provides a new pathway to high school graduation for students who don’t see college in their futures. Students can take the Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathway proposed by SB 770, earning industry certifications throughout high school which can count as credits toward a high school diploma. Overall, that’s a good thing. I completely agree that college isn’t for everyone. I didn’t go to college until a couple of decades after high school.
The problem is that the CTE pathway option allows students to substitute industry certification for two of the three science credits required for graduation. A student could graduate having taken only the state mandated Biology course and no other science class.
I watched the committee meeting discussion about SB 770 (link here, with SB 770 starting around 16:00) and initially thought my concerns had been allayed when the sponsor, Sen. Travis Hutson, explained that he was presenting an all-new version of his bill to the committee. He said that the CTE pathway now featured “all courses are just the same, just as rigorous” as the other high school diploma options. He said the vocational courses would be taken care of through the “elective track.” I cheered, thinking that three science courses required for graduation had been restored.
I was then excited to see a woman speak during public comments (at about 38:00 in the video) about the importance of math and science, using her extensive experience as a retired science teacher and guidance counselor to tell the senators to not cut the number of math and science credits. Later, during discussion among the lawmakers, they made it seem like the revised bill didn’t cut the number of courses.
Unfortunately, the new bill version still allows students to reduce the number of science course that they have to take (bold emphasis is mine):
244 3. Complete three credits in science. Two of the three
245 required credits must have a laboratory component. A student
246 must earn one credit in Biology I and two credits in equally
247 rigorous courses. The statewide, standardized Biology I EOC
248 assessment constitutes 30 percent of the student’s final course
249 grade. A student who earns an industry certification for which
250 there is a statewide college credit articulation agreement
251 approved by the State Board of Education may substitute the
252 certification for two science credits, except for Biology I;
Therefore, we here at Florida Citizens for Science still oppose this bill. The senate bill has two more committee stops and the house bill has three committee stops and hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing in any yet.
Meanwhile … “book banning” bills still getting a lot of attention
The FCA wants to wrest from the hands of teachers and students the book “Essentials of Oceanography” from Pearson Education Inc. It commits the high crime of suggesting climate change is real and is affecting oceans.
It’s not as Florida students would benefit from learning how man-made climate change might have led to the rapid intensification of Hurricane Michael last fall before it annihilated parts of the Panhandle, right?
The Florida Citizens Alliance has been known to speak up against climate change, charging science textbooks used in the classroom promote it, and they’ve had a history of challenging a variety of texts throughout various counties in the state that they believe to be hindering a Christian agenda (this group has called explicitly for Religious education in the classroom), and/or are infused with “pornographic” content.
A bill birthed in the febrile minds of an outfit called the Florida Citizens Alliance, HB855/SB1454 would allow parents to insist school districts protect innocent tykes from the knowledge that anthropogenic climate change is real, we are indeed kin to monkeys, slavery was not a good thing, American history is not an unbroken string of righteous behavior, some people are born gay or bisexual or transsexual, and humans have sex.
These bills are a blatant attempt from Florida Citizens Alliance to control educational materials and agendas, censor information they oppose politically and leave generations of students worse off than those that have come before them. Florida Education Defenders is a group of organizations, including National Coalition Against Censorship, ACLU of Florida, Florida Citizens for Science, PEN America, and more, interested in protecting the students of Florida from censorship and special interests.
The Alliance isn’t happy with this media coverage, insisting that their bills aren’t about banning books. They’re also pressuring lawmakers to schedule their bills for committee hearings soon.
Meanwhile … “alternative theories” bill has national attention
Academic Standards Bill SB 330 (no HB) is being laughed at across the country.
These attempts to make science into just another ideology are worrying, but not quite as scary as the anchorless reality that Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley—sponsor of one of those Fair and Balanced bills mentioned earlier—seems to live in. “There is really no established science on most things, you’ll find,” he said.
And it appears that more and more people are taking climate change seriously, especially here in the Sunshine State: Saint Leo University Survey Finds Sizable Numbers Say Climate Change Theory Should Be Taught in School; One in Four Say Individuals Are Able to Act in Preventing Ill Effects
A new survey conducted nationally and within the state of Florida by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute has found a majority of those responding think climate change should be taught as accepted theory in public primary and secondary schools. In the cases of both U.S. and Florida results, more than six in 10 respondents agreed strongly or agreed somewhat with the idea.
Meanwhile … “common core” continues to hog the spotlight
All state academic standards are under review right now and a timeline has been set for when recommendations for how to revise or replace the standards will be released. But, as with all news stories on this issue, the only standards to get any attention are the common core ones. Florida standards review targets fall for recommendations
The Florida Department of Education aims to release its recommended changes to the state’s academic standards in September or October, so the public can have time to make final comments before a proposal heads to lawmakers in early 2020, chancellor Jacob Oliva told the State Board of Education on Tuesday.