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More curriculum tinkering in California

A message has appeared in some circles that may concern some of you.
To those who are involved in science education and don't think
California developments are important, think again. What is happening
in the California Standards and Frameworks is part of a master plan
that will make an appearance in the next version of your state's
standards or frameworks. It's already happening with math and
reading, with the blessing of the Fordham Foundation, the Manhattan
Institute and the rest of the nefarious privatization clowns. If you
have any comment on the California Framework, there is still time to
send them to the Board (and to prepare for similar arguments in your
own back yard).


From: <<mailto:PFolger@agu.org>PFolger@agu.org>
Subject: ASLA 02-03 CA May De-Emphasize Geoscience in High School

> Dear AGU member:

AGU's Committee on Public Affairs is expanding its efforts to inform
AGU members about important policy issues affecting Earth and space
sciences. Typically we do this via AGU Science and Legislative Alerts
(ASLAs). ASLAs are e-mails we send to members interested in staying
informed and bringing their knowledge of science to bear upon issues of
common concern at the state and local as well as national level. From
time to time we also send an alert to AGU members in a particular state, or
particular congressional district if an issue arises pertaining to
that state,
district, or legislator from that district. The alert below is
one example.

If you would like to become part of our regular ASLA network, notify me
(<mailto:pfolger@agu.org>pfolger@agu.org) or sign up via the web site

You can also scan previous
alerts on our website at
If you
do not want to receive any more alerts, please let me know at the same e-
mail address.

ASLA 02-03 California May De-Emphasize Geosciences in High School

On 6 February 2000 the California State Board of Education (SBE) will
meet to consider the draft science framework for California public schools.
According to a California Department of Education (CDE) press release:
"This framework is the document that will support the implementation of
the science standards, drive our science programs, and ultimately define
how California's students will learn science." When the Board meets next
Wednesday they could vote to approve the framework. Geoscience
educators are concerned that the framework could adversely impact how
Earth sciences will be taught in California. Earth and space scientists
should take this opportunity to fax their views to the Board before the 6
February meeting and urge a more thoughtful reconsideration of the draft

Tucked into the draft framework is a small but potentially significant
change to the graduation requirements. Currently a student can take an
Earth science course or Earth science as part of an integrated physical
sciences course and receive credit towards the graduation requirements for
science. Under the proposed framework, students would be required to
take lab courses in two of the following three "content strands":
biology/life science, chemistry, or physics. Student may choose an Earth
science course as an elective but only if they first take the
prerequisite two
credits in biology, chemistry, or physics.

Not allowing Earth science to count towards meeting the minimum science
requirements will probably mean that the subject won't be included on the
California state exit exam. Passing the state exit exam will be
required for
graduation starting with the class of 2004. The concern is that schools
> facing budget pressure will focus their limited resources on lab
courses for
physics, chemistry, and biology whose content is required and tested for.
Under these circumstances geoscience educators fear that many California
students will be discouraged from taking any Earth science in high school.

The draft framework is available on line at:

. The specific
language regarding graduation requirements is in chapter 1, page 9, lines
7-10. The CDE encourages interested citizens to send in their comments
on the draft framework before the February 6 meeting. Letters may be
faxed to:

Reed Hastings, SBE President
California State Board of Education Office
721 Capitol Mall
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-7016 fax

Faxes will be accepted up to the morning of February 6.

If you live in the Sacramento area, you might want to attend the meeting to
share your views or to observe the proceedings. Each person wishing to
address the SBE may have up to two minutes to provide oral input.
Contact the SBE office using the fax number listed above if you would
like to address the Board. You are also encouraged to bring 20 copies of
your written comment to give to Board members prior to your oral

If you choose to comment on the draft framework, AGU's recently
adopted position statement on the importance of teaching Earth and space
sciences in primary and secondary education may be useful to you. In
particular, AGU's statement recognizes and endorses the view that Earth
and space science are essential elements in education at all grade levels,
which includes high school.

The statement (available on line at:

) is as follows:

Citizens require a solid understanding of the Earth and space sciences to
address responsibly many of the issues confronting society, such as climate
change, natural hazards, and resource availability. In the U.S., the only
opportunity for most people to learn science in a formal setting occurs in
grades K-12 (kindergarten through high school). In addition, a positive K-
12 science experience may inspire young people to pursue the further
study of science. As a community dedicated to advancing the
understanding of Earth and space, the American Geophysical Union
(AGU) is committed to effective science education in the primary and
secondary grades.

The National Research Council (NRC) and the American Association for
the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have independently addressed ways
to improve the quality of K-12 science education. Their recommendations
are published in National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1995) and
Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS, 1994). These documents
outline specific concepts that students should know, understand, and be
able to apply in order to be scientifically literate. They also suggest
effective methods for teaching science. Both documents include the Earth
and space sciences, along with the physical and life sciences, as essential
elements in education at all grade levels.

The American Geophysical Union endorses the recommendations for
teaching Earth and space sciences contained in Benchmarks for Science
Literacy and National Science Education Standards. AGU urges local and
state education agencies to implement these recommendations in the
primary and secondary grades.

Sources: American Geological Institute, AAAS, NRC
Questions or comments about ASLA? Need to change your e-mail
address? Contact <mailto:pfolger@agu.org>pfolger@agu.org. To
read previous ASLAs, visit

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