Archive for May, 2012

Chilly climate in the classroom?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The National Center for Science Education posted this on their Facebook today and I thought I would help pass it along:

Are you a middle school or high school teacher? Are you teaching climate change science and encountering resistance (or pressure) from students, parents, your principal, or your local school board? NCSE wants to hear from you! Contact Mark McCaffrey at mccaffrey@ncse.com

Time Running Out to Comment on Next Generation Science Standards

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Time is running out to comment on “Next Generation Science Standards” first public draft. The science education community has until this Friday, June 1, to submit feedback on the first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) released to the public on May 11. Don’t miss your chance to comment on this important draft and help shape the future of science education. Go to the www.nextgenscience.org to view the standards online. After reviewing the document, select “provide comments on the standards” to submit feedback. NSTA has a host of resources to help you better understand and read the draft, including background information and supporting documents. Want to share your thoughts with others and ask questions? Go to the NGSS Discussion Forums in the NSTA learning Center. NSTA is also interested in your thoughts and comments on the draft. Share with us at ngss@nsta.org.

Science FCAT achievement levels

Monday, May 28th, 2012

The Florida Department of Education is opening up for public comment the new proposed science FCAT 2.0 achievement levels descriptions. They are a component of how we know a student has tested at a given level (FCAT levels 1-5, with five being the highest). You can offer your input here. The Gradebook blog notes “This is part of the process that brought Florida the current testing mess that has Florida Department of Education leaders scrambling to convince many parents that the system isn’t broken.”

Florida legislature changes

Monday, May 28th, 2012

The ever vigilant Sensuous Curmudgeon spotted a couple of departures from our dysfunctional Florida legislature that have implications for the future of antievolution efforts in Florida. I’ll repeat the announcements here, but there are also a few other changes that escaped his notice that are definitely worth mentioning.

First of all, Sen. Stephen Wise, our if-man-came-from-monkeys-then-why-are-there-still-monkeys creationist who wanted to enshrine in law that evolution needs to be balanced with a “non-evolution” “theory of whatever,” will not be haunting the shadowy halls of the capitol:

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, couldn’t nab Senate District 4 candidate Aaron Bean’s pledge card for his failed attempt at the Senate presidency during the legislative session, but Thrasher is backing Bean anyway. Bean’s campaign announced the endorsements this week of Thrasher and Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, who is term-limited.

It’s actually old news, but I don’t think I’ve ever noted it here on the blog before. The more recent noteworthy departure is that of one of the looniest in the looney bin, Sen. Ronda Storms, sponsor of the 2008 “academic freedom” bill in the Senate. She was the one who constantly dodged the question about whether her bill would allow intelligent design to be taught. She’s decided to seek a different political seat.

State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, is dropping her reelection bid and instead will run against embattled Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner.

Storms, a former Hillsborough County commissioner, had two years left before she was term-limited out of the Senate. But she said Friday that a porn scandal surrounding Turner prompted her to abandon the legislature and instead try to oust her fellow Republican.

Do these departures mean that creationism is a dead issue in the Florida legislature? Hardly. We still have Sen. Alan Hays who was the sponsor of an “academic freedom” bill when he served in the House in 2008. Will he attempt another creationism push while in the Senate? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, one of the most prominent citizen creationism activists back in 2008, Kim Kendall, is a candidate for the state House. I haven’t seen mention of creationism during her campaign yet. It’s just briefly mentioned in one line on her campaign website. But there are other issues that have come up that are interesting:

I pointed out that The Report Card readers are deeply concerned about failure of textbooks to teach the history of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and pride in American exceptionalism. Additionally, many textbooks seem to promote a global, socialist agenda, and attack capitalism. I ask how digital learning would solve that significant issue.

Ms. Kendall says: “Because textbooks will be digitized it will be easier to remove or edit questionable material and add missing material. But decisions must be made to deal with textbook content. I really believe that change can come about in a couple of ways: First, legislators must speak out against really egregious issues like Islam-biased textbooks and classroom presentations from terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood. There is no excuse for those teachings in our schools, so terrorist organizations must be barred from schools period. Second, if Florida wishes to attract business, it is not smart to attack business in schools. We need to develop partnerships with business to teach the greatness of the free markets and to prepare our students for the job market. It is so important that our kids are educated freedom and not indoctrinated in socialism and a world of government solutions.”

What are the odds on her winning a House seat? Early indications predict she is a shoo-in.

Let’s just say Kim Kendall is going to be tough to beat.

In a press release Monday, the Republican Florida House candidate sent a crystal clear message: My campaign is going to be well funded, and have establishment support.

Will creationism once again become an issue in Tallahassee even with Wise and Storms gone? I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

And on a side note, Terry Kemple, who was another vocal creationist in 2008, is taking another stab at a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board. He had tried in 2010 and lost.

If you know of any other races we need to keep an eye on, please let me know.

Biology End of Course exam results

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Well, I’m not sure what to make of the Biology End of Course Exam results that were released this week. There is hardly any news on the results. The Palm Beach Post is really the only news outlet that I could find so far that paid any attention.

Students taking the biology EOC got about half the questions correct. Out of 56 questions, an average of 27.98 were answered correctly on each test, spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said.

You can sort through the results by district and by school here. Since this is the first official year for this test, the scores were merely broken down into thirds. A student either scored in the top third, middle third, or bottom third. That’s all we know at this point. Here’s a full story at the Post, too.

In theory, these tests count for 30 percent of ninth-graders grades in their geometry and biology classes this year. However, Marc Baron, the district’s chief of performance accountability, said scores will not affect students’ semester grades or GPAs.

Beginning next year, ninth-graders must earn a passing score on the end-of-course tests in geometry and biology to graduate.

And let’s not forget that scores will also be applied to teachers’ performance ratings annually.

Climate Change Workshop at the Florida Aquarium

Friday, May 25th, 2012

The Florida Aquarium, in partnership with the University of South Florida’s NSF funded Coastal Areas Climate Change Education (CACCE), is hosting a climate change education workshop/meeting on Wednesday June 6 from 10AM to 4PM at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. The meeting will continue to build a statewide climate change education network of science institutions and identify best practices and case studies in climate change education. Jonathan P Smith, VP of Florida Citizens for Science, will be speaking there and discussing the topic of climate change in K-12 science education. If you would like to attend this meeting as a representative of FCS, please contact Jonathan Smith ASAP at cyjonolds@aol.com.

At the 2012 Florida Citizens for Science annual meeting, the board members adopted a policy and agreed to follow the example of the NCSE in promoting the awareness of climate change in our public school system.

More high school kids taking math/science

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

From the AP News wire: “More high school students are enrolling in math and science classes. … Overall, the percentage enrolling in math and science courses increased in all subjects except algebra I, a class many students now take in middle school. Yet while more are enrolling, the report also states that scores have largely stagnated.”

See more at the “Condition of Education” report site.

Well, it was a bold idea

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Brevard County wanted to add more science and social studies to their schools’ graduation requirements. But money woes killed the plan. Stricter Brevard Public Schools graduation requirements fall to tight times

It was an ambitious objective, to require high school students to take four years of science and social studies classes to graduate from Brevard Public Schools — an extra year of each subject than is required by the state.

But amid funding shortfalls, it never came to fruition. The Brevard School Board temporarily waived its harder graduation requirement for students graduating in 2011, the first year it was to take effect, and again the following year, for this year’s graduating class.

On Tuesday, school board members voted to permanently remove the requirement from its books.