Archive for July, 2012

Is Online-U the way to go for science?

Monday, July 30th, 2012

I love that Paul Cottle is making friends in some great places, including the media. See Online-U doesn’t fit with state’s math, science goal,

Paul Cottle’s physics classes at Florida State University include just the type of student the state wants to produce more of: high-level, science-focused scholars capable of competing for jobs on the world’s stage.

The way Cottle teaches them is no accident.

“Right now, the very best classroom environment for physics is one in which you have people working together in groups on physical experiments, things they’ve got in their hands,” he said. “We do very, very little lecturing, maybe five minutes of lecturing at the beginning of a three-hour period.”

It’s intense, hands-on and face-to-face. And it’s the exact opposite of Florida leaders’ push to figure out a way to make the state the latest competitor in the e-degree business.

I talked a bit about virtual education here. It has its place, but it’s not “the answer” by any stretch of the imagination. In my humble opinion, of course.

Florida, we have a problem

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I can’t afford to be a teacher. Not now and most likely not anytime soon. I have my college degree in biology education. I have my teacher certification in biology and middle school math, too. All I need to do is apply for jobs. But I simply can’t cross that finish line that I started toward about six years ago.

My student loan repayments have kicked in, so there is that massive extra financial burden now. I’m certainly not making tons of money right now, but even so, I would be taking a pay cut to become a new teacher. I simply can’t afford to do it.

And then there is whole mess of no more teacher tenure. There is the whole mess of stressing about end-of-course tests and how students’ performance on them would play a big part in whether I would have a job the next school year. I’m secure in my present job with little threat of suddenly being kicked out the door on my rear. It doesn’t appear that would be the case in teaching.

I’ve seen how hard a teacher’s job truly is. A requirement for my college degree was a three month internship. It was such a short time period, but I worked long into the night every night preparing for the next school day and most of my weekends were eaten up in a similar manner. It was exhausting. Heck, I didn’t even have 100 percent of the responsibilities the actual teacher had.

Nonetheless, I would still like to be a biology teacher. And there is supposedly a shortage of science teachers in Florida. But for Florida to get what it wants and for me to get what I want, we would have to meet somewhere in the middle. I would need to be paid enough so that I could in turn pay my bills. I would need some assurance that I wouldn’t lose my job because a principal doesn’t like me or some students were having a bad test day (or didn’t even bother to show up for the test). In return, I promise to focus all of my energy and expertise on teaching and engaging students’ interest. I promise to do everything I can to infect as many students as possible with the science bug.

Hey, Florida, think about it and get back to me, OK?

What sparked this post? An article in the Orlando Sentinel: Tougher standards may worsen science-teacher shortage.

Looking to boost the quality of science education, Florida has just made it tougher for aspiring teachers to pass required certification exams.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with that. I already passed my certification exam, but I feel confident I could do it again, higher standards or not. But the reporter delves a bit deeper into the issues of becoming a science teacher.

… many college students with talent and interest in science don’t pursue teaching careers. Those who do, she said, often find they can earn more at public schools in other states, including neighboring Georgia.

Money certainly is a problem, Florida. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to make it go away.

It costs $200 to take a subject-area certification exam the first time and $220 after that.

The fees had been $50 but went up in 2009 when the Legislature cut funding.

Yup, I paid that $200 and it really hurt the wallet. Right now I think I threw that money in the toilet. Thanks, Florida. Raising standards is fine. Raising exam fees isn’t.

State test data make it clear Florida teacher-preparation programs train relatively few new science teachers. Last year, 611 people took the biology-certification exam, for example, compared with more than 1,600 who took the exam to teach middle- or high-school social-studies classes.

So, Florida, what do you plan on doing about this? Anything? Hello? Anyone out there?

Olympic Games Ceremony

Friday, July 27th, 2012

As a native of Great Britain (English actually) I am always proud when my country of birth show cases their abilities to organize an event. We are never too politically correct in showing our contributions to society through out the world.Whether it’s in music,the arts or science,Britain for such a small nation, has produce some remarkable people. If any of you watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic games,the theme was about Great Britain’s greatest achievements and the very first person to be highlighted was Charles Darwin. Rather than a embarrassment as Darwin would have been if he was born in the USA,Darwin was recognised as one of the most brilliant minds Britain has ever produced. Hats off to the organizers of the event for “telling it like it is”

Campaign websites

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Terry Kemple, a current candidate running for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board, was a very vocal antievolution advocate during the 2008 Florida science standards fight and subsequent “academic freedom” bills fight in the state legislature. He then tried to get onto the Hillsborough County School Board in 2010 but lost. He’s trying again, but he’s fighting some negative publicity on the interwebs: Website spoofs Hillsborough School Board candidate

Kemple, a conservative Christian activist who is one of six candidates for the countywide District 7 seat, declared verbal war Thursday on whoever created the parody website and renewed the domain name through 2014.

The parody website is vote4kemple.com, which I’m proud to say has a link back to the Florida Citizens for Science blog.

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Another website that, sadly, is not a parody is that of Alachua County School Board candidate Jodie Wood. Take a look at his Platform Issues.

Issue:  Evolution, creationism, intelligent design?

Many of those who know me are aware of my strong dedication to the Christian faith.  This has resulted in me being asked my opinion on creationism being taught in public schools.  First I would like to say that it is against my belief for religion to be taught in the public system.  This should be left in the hands of parents, churches, and other non-tax-paid organizations.

Conversely, I believe that it is improper for evolutionism to be taught as known fact.  Darwin in his book “origin of the species” referred to such as “theory”.  I believe in scientific evidence.  Creationism and evolutionism both can be to some extent supported with scientific data….

Conclusion:  Fact should be taught as fact.  Theory should be taught as theory.  Religion and other social belief should be left to the community.  Let’s educate our kids …

Second out of the gate: Alachua County

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

First there was Pinellas County. And then there was Alachua County. Seriously. I can’t make this stuff up. Truck driver Jodi Wood is running for the second time after a campaign in 2010 to get elected to the School Board.

Wood has identified himself as a Christian who believes in creationism, and he said evolution should be taught in schools as a theory and not “as fact.”

“Theories should not be taught, or they should be taught with the identification that they are theoretical conclusions,” he said.

The hilarity just never ends, does it?

 

Science education not a priority in Florida?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Apparently, Florida’s education commissioner decided that Florida’s C rated science standards, with some tweaks, are just find and dandy. He thinks there is no need to adopt the national science standards like Florida did in other subjects. Bridge to Tomorrow says:

Florida is a leader in the Common Core Standards movement in math and English language arts, and is planning to implement a multi-state examination program in those subjects within the next few years.

However, the state’s educational leaders apparently do not have the stomach to compete with the rest of the nation in science.

While “STEM” is supposed to be an educational priority in Florida, there is apparently no “science” in “STEM”.

Gotta love it. You don’t have to trust my or Paul’s assessment of what was said, though. See for yourself:

Florida’s science standards: I’m confused

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Back in May, the State Board of Education talked for a few minutes about the state’s science standards woes. The science standards developed and approved in 2008 simply aren’t the best. I provided a lengthy summary of what the Board decided to do, even though that decision was rather hazy.

There are currently 23 states joining together to create a set of Next Generation Science Standards. We here at Florida Citizens for Science have been encouraging the DoE and State Board to join that effort. It appears that Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson at least partly agrees. His recommendation to the Board is to temporarily patch up our state standards while waiting for the national standards effort to produce a final product. The Board could then consider at that time adopting the National Standards in place of our state standards.

During the meeting, the Board seemed to go along with this recommendation. Bridge to Tomorrow also discussed the temporary patch job and reminds us that the next time the Board is expected to talk about this is Monday and Tuesday, July 16-17 (however, I don’t see any mention of this subject on the meeting agendas).

So, I’m feeling might confused by what I read in a story today in the Tampa Bay Times. Educators aim to excite students in science.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a national education think tank in Washington, D.C., found Florida’s standards did a good job at the primary level. But they were weak in the higher grades as a result of “poor organization, ambiguous statements and basic errors,” the report said.

More criticism has followed since the recent release of results on a national science test for eighth-graders that showed Florida lagging behind the national average.

The findings have some local education advocates calling for the state to join the national effort to develop Common Core State Standards in science.

Florida Department of Education officials, however, recommend sticking with plans to adopt the state’s Next Generation Science Standards in 2013-14.

“A lot of assessments and curriculum are already built around it,” said Gerry Meisels, director of the Coalition for Science Literacy at the University of South Florida.

It would be too costly, officials said, to rewrite instructional materials and retrain teachers — especially since the two standards are so similar.

“And, frankly,” said Meisels, a chemistry professor who helped write Florida’s standards, “teachers and students need some stability. You can’t keep changing things every year.”

What? Does this mean that someone in Tallahassee changed the May recommendation decision? Can y’all help me figure out what is going on here?

Couple of interesting articles

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

First up is an article in the Orlando Sentinel about the implementation of new teacher evaluations, Teachers: New evaluation system ‘artificial,’ ‘frustrating,’ ‘humiliating’.

High-school chemistry teacher Steve Fannin was honored recently in Washington, D.C., as one of the nation’s best math and science educators.

Fannin, a 31-year veteran of Tallahassee schools, has mastery of his subject and “exemplary” classroom skills, according to the judges of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Yet when Fannin was evaluated under Florida’s new teacher-assessment system, the results weren’t so impressive.

A mid-year evaluation identified him as a “beginning” teacher.

Despite the hard-hitting opening, the story gets softer later as some folks feel that the evaluations are a positive tool that will smooth out over time. The apparent problem is that Florida rushed into this new system much too fast without allowing time for training and such. What do you think?

The second story is a summary of a study that shows getting parents involved even just a little bit in STEM education can have a big impact on their children. Parents Are an ‘Untapped Resource’ to Push STEM, Study Says.

“The pipeline leading students toward careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM] begins leaking in high school, when some students choose not to take advanced mathematics and science courses,” the study says. “It is essential to mobilize all potential resources for motivating adolescents to take courses that will best prepare them for their future.”