Archive for November, 2012

11.29.12 This & That

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

— The state legislature is getting organized for 2013’s session, which will run from March 5 to May 3. Here’s a look at how Senate education committee’s are shaping up. And here’s information about the House committees.

Teachers, professors push for high-level science education:

“If you don’t have a science and math background, with the way things are today, you’re not going to go as far as you like,” [Raa Middle School Science teacher Lisa] Ponti said.

“We’re trying to let the students know the country needs them to take the difficult courses and pursue the science degrees,” Charles Weatherford [chair of the physics department at Florida A&M University] said. “We need to reach down into the middle schools to reinforce the desire to do science and math. Students need to not give up and work hard.”

“Students who pursue science and math have to be rewarded,” he said. “We’re looking to guide these students through middle and high school so they don’t limit their options once they’re in university.”

Next Draft of Common Science Standards to Hit in January:

An ambitious effort to develop common science standards across states will soon face a second—and final—round of public vetting and feedback. The new draft, crafted through a partnership that has brought together education officials from 26 states, is now slated to arrive the first week of January. That’s later than the promised fall release signaled earlier by organizers.

The standards, which aim to refocus K-12 science education, are now projected to be finalized in March. After that, it’s up to individual states to decide if they want to adopt them.

— One of my daily blog reads is The Sensuous Curmudgeon. He had some fun with a recent letter to the editor that appeared in the Naples Daily News.

Florida tax dollars going to anti-science schools

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

We need to get the content of this Orlando Sentinel article out into the wider public view, so please share and blog and tweet about it as much as you can: Florida already funnels millions in tax dollars to religious schools. There are quite a few religious schools getting “voucher” money of one type or another here in Florida. But they’re not held to the same standards as public schools.

But the state has no control over the curriculum at private schools. Critics complain that the state is sending students to private religious schools at taxpayer expense without adequately assessing how students or schools perform.

The state requires that scholarship students in grades three to 10 take a standardized test each year but only takes a broad look at the results to see whether the scholarship students overall appear to be relatively on par with public-school students.

Some time ago I had attempted to research what tax-supported religious schools were using for the curriculum. I mainly looked at the schools’ websites. Whereas some schools freely admitted to using overtly religious materials, many schools don’t clearly mention what materials they use. Despite that, I still found quite a few schools that use books like this school does:

The school [Kingsway Christian Academy, in the Pine Hills section of Orange County] is operated by Faith Creation Fellowship church, and the school’s website promises “an education with a spiritual emphasis.” The school uses the A Beka Book series of Christian texts that are controversial for teaching strict biblical creationism in science classes and dismissing as heresy the evolution theory of man’s origin taught in public schools.

Maybe I’lll dig up my research and continue where I left off. For those of you unfamiliar with A Beka Book, take a look for yourself what this Pensacola company offers. Here’s a blurb about their 10th-grade Biology book:

Truly nonevolutionary in philosophy, spirit, and sequence of study. Begins with the familiar, tangible things of nature with special emphasis on the structure and function; and concludes with God’s amazing design at the cellular and chemical level.

This is being taught to children who are attending religious schools using Florida tax dollars (in one form or another). Help spread the word, folks. And if you want to help me with my research, please let me know and we’ll split up the work.

Sen. Rubio states the obvious: “I’m not a scientist, man.”

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The junior U.S. Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, had an interesting question and answer exchange in GQ:

GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?
Marco Rubio: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

This is just embarrassing! He’s popular. He’s in a position of some power. And there are predictions that he’ll rise higher. THAT’S a great mystery!

11.18.12 This & That

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

— Here’s an online game that teaches the basics of natural selection “Who Wants to Live a  Million Years.” I gave it a shot and found the game to be OK. Some folks who left comments there weren’t all that impressed, though. I’m guessing that if students are simply turned loose on the game without any teacher supervision or guidance then they won’t get much out of if it. But if used as a reinforcement lesson, it would be a fine learning tool.

— Here’s an interesting article about national goals for STEM education and how to measure progress toward those goals. NRC Calls for New Steps to Track Progress in STEM Education.

The National Research Council in a new report identifies a set of 14 “key indicators” to gauge progress in STEM education, including how much time elementary teachers devote to science instruction, the extent to which districts are adopting instructional materials aligned to the common-core standards in math and recent guidelines for new science standards, and the level of teachers’ STEM content knowledge.

The indicators are intended to serve as a framework for Congress and relevant federal agencies to create and implement a “national-level monitoring and reporting system.”

— This is an adorable short YouTube video “Dogs Teaching Chemistry.”

Science, Still Florida’s Red Headed Step Child?

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Yesterday, The Consortium of Florida Education Foundation,gathered for a regional session to focus on what businesses and industry leaders say they need in future workers and how the education system is changing to meet those needs. The meeting focused on “The new Common Core Curriculum” which will align with national standards designed to deliver a globally competitive workforce. Students will be tested on it not by the FCAT but, starting in 2015, by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, better known as PARCC. Little in the meeting focus on the need for a major transformation in STEM education at all levels (surprise surprise). Nothing was mentioned in regard to adopting the new National Science Standards (NGSS) so we must assume that the current state science standards (recently band added) will “align” with national standards?  With Common Core, the problem of knowing which credits transfer when student come in from out of state will dissipate and Florida will have a better comparison to other states on how well its students perform,” said Mary Jane Tappen, the state Department of Education deputy chancellor for curriculum. But evidently,this is not the case when it comes to science education.

Update.  See my letter in the Lakeland Ledger.

Skipping science

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

This multi-state study didn’t include Florida, but I have no doubt the same type of thing happens here. I’ve known some elementary school teachers here who have essentially admitted as much. Science Grades Being Awarded On Student Report Cards Even When No Science Lessons Are Taught: Report

As many as one in five teachers in Kansas and neighboring states are reporting science grades on student report cards, without actually teaching it or testing students on the subject.

Educators said they reported science grades simply because there was a blank space for it on report cards. Cutting back on science lessons also meant teachers could spend more time focusing on high-stakes reading and math exams.

Kemple lost

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

I had neglected to check on conservative activist and creationist Terry Kemple’s race for a seat on the Hillsborough County School Board. Sorry about that. He lost: Kemple’s challenge falls short. However, Kemple did round up a respectable percentage, 43.06 to his opponent’s 56.94. I doubt that this is the last we’ll hear of him.

11.11.12 This & That

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

— Will mandatory biology and geometry exams keep high school students from graduating? New tests could prevent thousands from graduating:

The passing rate on Florida’s new biology and geometry exams — now must-pass tests for a high school diploma — would be under 60 percent if a proposed scoring system is adopted.

That would put success on the state’s newest end-of-course exams on par with its algebra 1 exam, which 58 percent of students passed last spring.

“It will have a cumulative effect and impact on students who are trying to graduate from high school,” she said.

And high schools, she added, will be stretched thin trying to get them all into summer classes or other remedial programs to help them pass re-take exams.

— Thanks to YouTube, St. Petersburg High math teacher has students in 100 countries:

Last year, he landed on an additional way to teach — through YouTube. He has posted more than 300 videos on such topics as factoring, right angle trigonometry, standard deviation and — this one had more than 33,000 views — “z-score Calculations & Percentiles in a Normal Distribution.”

Tarrou, 41, began posting his self-made videos in the fall of 2011, partly to help a student who couldn’t attend class.

Now, people around the world have watched “Tarrou’s Chalk Talk” videos more than half a million times. More than 3,000 people from more than 100 countries have subscribed to his online channel.

— Manatee school district success story: STEM, career programs rank with nation’s best

Gov. Rick Scott has placed great emphasis on the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math — at all levels of Florida’s education system. The goal is to meet future workforce demands in those growing fields and improve the state’s economy with sustainable and high-wage jobs.

The governor stresses that the K-12 system must meet STEM demands. He should come to Manatee County for a tour of our school district’s esteemed programs in career and technical education. Scott would learn that Manatee is not only a state leader in those programs but a national one as well.