Archive for January, 2010

Maybe science won’t be left behind

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Is the majority of science being left behind in Florida public schools? Florida Rep. Legg tells the Gradebook blog not to worry.

Although only one high-stakes end-of-course science exam is now in the works as the Legislature looks to dump the high school FCAT, he said, other lower-stakes end-of-course science tests also will be part of the mix.

Our good friend Paul Cottle feels a bit better now.

By “low-stakes,” he means that they will be standardized final exams for all Florida high schools, by statute accounting for about 30% of a student’s final grade in the course.  They will not be used to determine a school’s grade, but it will be clear to the teachers and administrators how well the students in their schools are learning the subjects.

Let them hear what you have to say

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Concerned about how our state is handling public education issues? You will have some influential ears on Monday in Pasco County.

Pasco County state representatives Will Weatherford and John Legg, each of whom chairs key education panels in the House, have joined forces with Pasco School Board chairman Allen Altman to convene an education summit to gather that local input.

Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith got word of Monday’s upcoming summit, which features two panel discussions plus a town hall session, and decided he wanted to come. He’s bringing K-12 chancellor Frances Haithcock with him.

The summit, which is open to the public, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday at Sunlake High School in Land O’Lakes.

They see a problem, but will they DO anything?

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Our state legislators claim that they see a problem with Florida’s education system, as outlined by Ms. Haithcock here.

Satisfying Florida’s graduation requirements — but not exceeding them — prepares high school students for one thing: remedial coursework at a community college, Frances Haithcock, state chancellor of K-12 public schools, told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday.

“We are not transparent to our parents about what a diploma in Florida means,” she said.

Part of that problem involves math and science.

Florida’s math and science standards in particular are too vague and too low, she said. “There are four [required] courses in math — which is very good, except the most challenging course is Algebra I. There are science courses — three of them — not defined. That is unacceptable.”

But will lawmakers actually do something about this? It seems to always come back to $$$.

A similar proposal died in the Legislature last year, largely because of the cost of implementing such reforms. Developing just one end-of-course exam costs about $1.5 million.

Times have changed, Legg said, as has the proposal. For starters, he said, the FCAT phase-out in this year’s bill will produce savings, thereby off-setting some of the costs of the new course exams.

Legg acknowledged that there will be other associated costs, which staff analysts have yet to quantify. For example, since education leaders want to administer the end-of-course tests entirely by computer, schools will have new technology needs.

We just have to wait and see now. And communicating (writing, speaking) with your own legislators couldn’t hurt.

Sen. Storms faces challenge

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

State Senator Ronda Storms, who we know quite well from her attempts to water down evolution education, is being challenged in the Republican primary. What odds do you give her new opponent?

An attorney from Valrico is challenging state Sen. Ronda Storms in the Republican primary contest for her District 10 seat.

Paul Phillips filed papers on Monday to run for the Senate seat that Storms has held since 2006.

Both candidates agree on fiscally conservative policies — for example, replacing property taxes with a higher sales tax. Both are also anti-abortion Christians. But Phillips has concerns, he said, about trying too hard to legislate morality.

“I think you can go too far pushing an issue that feel is really morally justified; you end up infringing on other people’s rights.”

Storms, also an attorney, has a reputation for advancing conservative, sometimes controversial legislation on social issues ranging from abortion to teaching evolution in public schools. Her outspokenness has made her a popular target of criticism from the left, dating back to her tenure on the Hillsborough County Commission from 1998 to 2006.

UPDATE: here is another story about the developing race. I like what Phillips has to say here:

Phillips also teaches a class on philosophy and ethics at St. Petersburg College, and he says speaking with his students, he’s learned that there’s a problem in our education system, in that students get intimidated by science and math in high school, and frequently opt not to pursue majors in college where those skills are needed.

Phillips says he hears kids say, ”’I’m dreading this math class’.  That’s not good, because you know the top paying jobs are computer engineers, structural engineers, mathematicians, finance professionals,  accounting professionals.  What does that say,” he asks, “on how we’re preparing our kids?”  He then wonders how people can complain about foreign students taking over certain jobs here in the U.S.

Column in paper today

Friday, January 8th, 2010

FCS’s Vice President Jonathan Smith had an article in the Lakeland Ledger today entitled The Self-Deception of Ignoring Science.

Now is the time to take a long, hard look at ourselves and decide what we expect for our students our state and our nation, or face the inevitable consequences. When your child graduates from high school, only to find that the job he or she desires has been taken by a person educated in another state or more likely, another country, who then will carry the blame?

2010 annual membership meeting

Friday, January 8th, 2010

The general public is invited  to Florida Citizens for Science’s annual general membership meeting January 23, 1:30-4 p.m. It will be held at the Marshall Student Center (Conference Room 3700), University of South Florida, Tampa. FCS members, or those wanting to become members, are encouraged to show up at 1 p.m. in order to be part of our election of board members.

Physics professor Dr. Paul Cottle will be our guest speaker. He is an outspoken proponent of sound science education in Florida and writes for his own blog Bridge to Tomorrow. The subject for his talk will be “A Legislative Program for Science Education in Florida.” This event is free and should be well worth your time in light of all the dismal news about science education in our state and the financial hardships still to come for education overall.

Yup, we helped!

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Remember our 2nd annual fundraising project hosted here back in September? We raised $1,775 and helped 13 classrooms buy needed science education supplies. I want to share with you thank you letters from the teachers and the cool photos of students interacting with the new stuff.

Just Elementary School, Tampa shows us their new dissection kits.

Royal Palm Charter School, Palm Bay has some new class pets to study.

Lockhart Middle School, Orlando has students who are really “gellin”.

Ocean Palms Elementary School, Ponte Vedra Beach has first-graders going out of this world.

Now don’t those letters and photos make you feel all tingly inside?