Archive for January 20th, 2009

Lawmaker wants to dump 11th grade science FCAT

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Today, House Bill 543, “Educational Assessment”, was filed by Representative Debbie Mayfield (R). The bill text indicates that Mayfield would like to see a major change to the science FCAT.

Notwithstanding s. 1008.22, Florida Statutes, or any other provision of the law to the contrary, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in science administered to students in grade 11 shall be discontinued at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. Beginning with the 2009-2010 school year, the science assessment administered at the high school level shall be one or more end-of-course examinations. The Commissioner of Education shall select one or more nationally developed comprehensive assessments for use as end-of-course examinations. An end-of-course examination must be rigorous and standardized, approved by the State Board of Education, and administered statewide. The content knowledge and skills assessed by an end-of-course examination must be aligned to the core curricular content established in the Sunshine State Standards.

I don’t know what Mayfield’s reason for the bill is. However, it seems to make sense. Keep in mind that science FCATs carry no repercussions for students who fail it, but do affect the schools’ grades. So, it would make sense that there would be a desire to do away with the stress. Kids have been bribed by schools to take and pass this test. See a previous post about this here.

Ipods, prom tickets, limo rides — the prizes offered at American one morning last week are meant to motivate 11th-graders into taking and doing well on the upcoming FCAT science exam. While the scores won’t affect their state graduation requirements, they will count, for the first time, toward school grades.

Now some South Florida educators find themselves trying to entice 16-year-olds — even if it borders on a bit of bribery. At Michael Krop Senior High, students who score Level 3 or higher on the the science FCAT will get to sport shorts to class.

”There are a lot of kids who don’t care because they know it doesn’t matter,” said Clifton Forbes, a junior at American.

That attitude is what concerns officials most.

What’s your take? Good idea or bad?

A few million years off

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Florida Citizens for Science vice president Joe Meert led a team that made an important discovery. That research is in the journal Precambrian Research, as well as in National Geographic and The Christian Science Monitor. He found out that the known age of a certain Indian basin is off a few million years, which solves a number of problems that had popped up before. (I don’t have a lot of time to look into this, but I’m pretty sure this is “old” news, so I don’t know why the UF news site is publishing the item now. In any case, it’s still a worthwhile read.)

The 500-million-year discrepancy is controversial in the science world.

The findings could alter aspects of the theory of evolution. Scientists have always believed in a Cambrian explosion resulting in a rapid appearance of most major groups of complex, multi-cellular animals, Meert explained.

Yet multi-cellular life, in the form of soft-bodied Ediacaran organisms, was discovered in the Vindhyan basin, leading Meert and co-authors to suggest that the explosion may have been more of a slow burn.

[edited: I corrected the post title and some post text. The age of the entire earth was not at question, but rather the age of a particular Indian basin. I blame my mistake on early morning posting.]