Archive for April, 2009

Where is a stickman when you need one?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

We’ve got serious problems, folks. You see all these great prizes? We’re talking books and movies and computer software and shirts and hats and games. The bad news is that most of that stuff is going to go unclaimed. You read that right. It will all collect dust sitting here next to my computer. Why? Because I have less than a dozen entries in our Stick Science contest.

We have no advertising budget, folks. So, that means you need to spread the word. You need to put pencil to paper and draw something to submit.

I doubt that many kids stop by this blog. That’s why we have one and only one entry in the 12 and under category. The only way we’re going to get these cool prizes to some creative kids is if you help me get the word out about this.

One problem that we’ve had is that I’ve had to reject quite a few entries because they dealt with bashing religion rather than promoting science. That’s a no-no. Let’s keep this positive, folks.

One month remains before deadline. Don’t let our great judges (Phil Plait, Genie Scott, Carl Zimmer and Kate Miller) down. Let’s make it tough on them. Let’s flood them with fun, exciting, stick science creativity.

Spread the word!

Video of evolution panel discussion now up

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

WJCT finally has the video from their “Schools, science and the state” forum discussion up. Make sure all sharp or heavy objects are out of reach as you watch.

Graduation standards bill declared dead

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

The Gradebook blog says that SB2654 is down for the count.

Senate sponsor Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, said tonight that SB 2654 won’t be heard on the Senate floor — though the proposal passed the House barely two weeks ago — because there’s just not time.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future has been pushing to raise the curriculum requirements for high school students, phasing in algebra II and geometry as required math classes, and biology I and chemistry as required science classes. In addition, the proposal would have increased the required graduation score on the 10th grade FCAT to 3 from 2.

“The bills got farther than I ever expected this year,” Altman said.

Now physics is gone

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Sheesh, activity in the legislature can turn on a dime. Paul R says the following in the comments of the previous post on science education bills:

HB 7087 is a disaster and it has supplanted all other bills and now the Senate has engrossed it into a bill sponsored by Sen. Wise, SB 2482 – physics is gone, physical science is gone, Biology is the only listed science and it must be tested as the sole representative of high school science literacy. Also gone – the mathematics requirements for algebra 2 and geometry.

This is wrong. All the gains in the amendments spoken of here are gone. Unfortunately it appears that inertia has overcome momentum here. The President spoke of a new national commitment to math and science education at NAS yesterday. I think Florida will need a waiver for that national program, too.

In any case, SB 2482, which is now identical to HB 7087, is slated for passage today in the Senate, which will likely mean that Gov. Crist will have the next say.

This and that

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

— Jerry Coyne could use your input concerning homeschooling and evolution. Are there any quality homeschooling science materials out there?

— Students take ‘trip’ to the sun; Scientists show pupils what physicists do.

— Reptile Discovery Center slithers into DeLand.

“The idea was really to expose people to the world of reptiles,” Barden said. “Although it’s a working snake farm, and the primary focus is on breeding and that kind of thing, we thought we could expose people to the animal and the animal to people.”

— School’s biology class gives landscaping a makeover

The students, all seniors, will earn college credit for the class through Edison State College. Time spent working on the landscaping project could either be used as community service hours or extra credit for the first-time class.

“We are like his guinea pigs,” added Sarah Cody. “It’s really been great.”

— Planetarium director reaches for the stars

“Not a week goes by without somebody saying, ‘Yeah, I was out last night. We saw something. I’m sure it was a UFO.’ It drives you crazy,” Rodgers says. “Usually we can nail it down to a star that they might have been seen or go online and figure out if the Space Station went overhead the night before, or something to explain what they saw that was out of the ordinary to me. It’s encouraging to me because it means that at least people are outside looking up at the sky. It’s discouraging because, immediately, everything is a UFO.”

— Busch Gardens amusement park in Tampa: a big math and physics lab.

This is the season of the theme park field trip, and the parks are happy to help, offering educational programs and deep discounts in hopes of filling their post-spring break lull with some of Florida’s two million students.

Just in case principals or parents question the legitimacy of such outings, the Web sites for Busch Gardens and Sea World include detailed information about how their school programs align with the state’s education standards.

— And you would have already known all this stuff if you were following me on Twitter.

President Obama Supports Science Education

Monday, April 27th, 2009

President Obam spoke before the National Academy of Science this morning (a audio recording can be found here ) and he announced some new and potentially historic investments in science. What I found to be of particular interest was his comments on science education.

” Since we know that the progress and prosperity of future
   generations will depend on what we do now to educate the next
   generation, today I am announcing a renewed commitment to
   education in mathematics and science.”

“We cannot start soon enough. We know that the quality of math
   and science teachers is the most influential single factor in
   determining whether or a student will succeed or fail in these
   subjects. Yet, in high school, more than twenty percent of
   students in math and more than sixty percent of students in
   chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise
   in these fields. And this problem is only going to get worse;
   there is a projected shortfall of more than 280,000 math and
   science teachers across the country by 2015.”

” I am challenging states to dramatically improve achievement in
   math and science by raising standards, modernizing science labs,
   upgrading curriculum, and forging partnerships to improve the
   use of science and technology in our classrooms. And I am
   challenging states to enhance teacher preparation and training,
   and to attract new and qualified math and science teachers to
   better engage students and reinvigorate these subjects in our

This sounds great,now if only it all happens? The whole speech can be found here.


A close one

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Forgive me; this is not science education related. But it’s a pretty big deal to me. My 17-year-old daughter is alive and unharmed.

Yesterday she flipped the car. A deer dashed in front of her. She swerved and went off the dirt road. She smacked into a dirt mound and flipped the car. Not rolled, but flipped the car like it was doing a somersault. A total of five teens were in the car. They were all wearing seat belts. Not a single scratch on any of them.









My daughter is a stubborn girl, which exasperates me to no end. But this time her stubborness was a good thing. Her friends told me that she has a rule for all passengers in a car with her: seatbelts. Good girl.

I’m now in the market for a new car. Needs to be under $20,000 and good on gas. Any suggestions?

Physics made a comeback

Friday, April 24th, 2009

This is an update to Jonathan’s earlier post tracking bills related to science education.

Physics made a comeback on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives late yesterday afternoon.  Late the previous night, Representative Fresen, sponsor of the House graduation requirements bill (HB 1293), filed an amendment to put physics into his bill and to – get this – take Agriscience Foundations out.

He did not include the biology end-of-course test in his new amendment since that is what got yesterday’s amendment into trouble. The amendment was adopted Thursday afternoon.  Then the bill’s most contentious provisions dealing with raising the required score for graduation on the 10th grade reading, writing and math FCAT score to 10th grade proficiency were addressed, and the bill was approved by a relatively contentious 75-42 vote.

The bill is now in the Senate’s court.  The Senate companion (SB 2654) was “temporarily postponed” by the Senate K-12 Appropriations Committee on Monday.  The good news in the House is that physics is in and Agriscience Foundations is out.  The bad news is that there is no mention of Earth/space science. 

Representative Mayfield, sponsor of the biology-only high school science testing bill, tucked her testing plan into another bill on student achievement in the secondary grades, HB 7087, as an amendment that she filed Thursday morning and was adopted that afternoon.  HB 7087 passed a minute later on a unanimous vote.  Here’s the relevant language of Mayfield’s amendment:

During the 2010-2011 school year, an end-of-course assessment in biology shall be administered as a field test at the high school level. Beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, the end-of-course assessment in biology shall eplace the comprehensive assessment of science administered at the high school level. During the 2011-2012 school year, each student’s performance on the end-of-course assessment in biology shall constitute 30 percent of the student’s final course grade. Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, a student must earn a passing score on the end-of-course assessment in biology in order to pass the course and receive course credit.

Mayfield’s own biology-only testing bill, HB 543, passed on its own, once again on a unanimous vote.  There is no mention of any subject but biology in her bill.  

Now it is up to the Senate how to respond.  At present, there is no high school science testing provision in any active Senate bill.  As mentioned above, the Senate graduation standards bill is in a coma in the K-12 Appropriations Committee.

In a related development, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law a bill that would boost salaries for teachers with proper math or science certification.  That is the sort of commitment it is going to take to make our state world-class in  science education.