April 2014 – Vol. 26 No. 8

Education Bills Make Their Way Through the Legislature as Governor Brown’s Proposal to Eliminate the Graduation Requirement Mandate Continues to Make Waves

Posted: Monday, April 2nd, 2012

by Jessica L. Sawko

As more information comes to light regarding the Governor’s plan to eliminate the Graduation Requirement mandate (second year, physical science requirement), CSTA and the public’s concern continues to grow. As reported in California Classroom Science in February and March, Governor Brown’s 2012-2013 budget proposal included the elimination of nearly half of the K-14 education mandates, including the Graduation Requirement mandate. (For background information on the history of the mandate, please click here.) This mandate has a high price tag, an estimated $200 million/year, however CSTA and others believe that eliminating the mandate sends the wrong message to California’s schools and children, and will create deep inequities for students enrolled in schools that are forced to make tough choices based on financial constraints. Members, please stay tuned to CCS and your email for information on how you can help CSTA fight against this cut.

On the legislative front, there are several bills winding their way through the legislature that CSTA is tracking:

AB 1246 (Brownley) Instructional Materials

This bill would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and authorize school districts, to submit instructional materials for review to the state board, which would be required to adopt procedures for the review of those submitted instructional materials. The bill would add additional requirements for the review and adoption of instructional materials, including, but not limited to, changing the submission cycles to 8 years for all subject areas and requiring the State Department of Education to assess a reasonable fee on a publisher or manufacturer if it submits instructional materials for review after the applicable timeframe. The bill also would authorize the Superintendent and school districts to recommend to the state board instructional materials for its adoption, as specified.

This bill would delete the requirement that the Instructional Quality Commission (formerly the Curriculum Commission) recommend instructional materials for adoption to the state board and would require the commission to perform additional prescribed functions, as specified. The bill would prohibit the commission from performing certain functions unless funds are available in the Budget Act for the  commission. The bill also would require the state board to hold a public hearing before adopting instructional materials for use in elementary schools.

As always, there is a possibility that this bill will be amended from this form. CSTA will closely monitor its progress. CSTA’s current position is one of support.

SB 1200 (Hancock) Academic Content Standards: Standards Review Commission

This bill would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to recommend and the state board to adopt the college and career readiness anchor standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative consortium. The bill would also authorize the state board to take action to resolve any technical issues in the academic content standards it adopted pursuant to the above-described provisions.

This bill would authorize the review of the mathematics standards described above by a 11-member standards review commission, appointed as specified and convened for that purpose, if the Superintendent and the state board jointly find that there is a need to revise or modify the standards. The bill would authorize the standards review commission that is convened for these purposes to make recommendations to modify only the grade 8 common core standards in mathematics. The bill would require the state board, upon receiving recommendations from this standards review commission, to adopt, reject, or revise the standards as proposed by the commission and to notify the Governor, the Senate Committee on Rules, and the Speaker of the Assembly that it has acted. If the state board rejects the recommendations, the bill would require the state board to provide to the Superintendent, the Governor, and the appropriate policy and fiscal committees of the Legislature a specific written explanation of the reasons why the proposed standards were rejected. If the state board revises the standards, the bill would require it to present its reasons for revising the standards at a public meeting held pursuant to the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, and to adopt the revised standards at a subsequent meeting no later than June 30, 2013.

When California adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, they elected to modify the standards to include the eighth grade algebra standards. As a result, California now faces the difficulty of having to pay for this modification. Because of the change, California will find it difficult to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the purchasing of nationally developed instructional materials and assessments. CSTA supports this bill.

SB 1245 (Alquist) Teacher Credentialing: Subject Matter Certificate in Mathematics or Science

This bill would authorize the governing board of a school district to request the commission to issue a 2-year subject matter certificate in mathematics or science to an applicant the governing board recommends to the commission if the governing board certifies it is experiencing an acute staffing need. The bill would require the commission to issue the certificate requested if the governing board verifies or submits documentation to verify the school district, among other things, has conducted a local recruitment for applicants of the certificate being requested, has developed a professional development plan for the applicant, and will provide, and the applicant will complete, at least 80 hours of preservice training before providing classroom instruction.

The bill would require the applicant to possess a baccalaureate or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university, comply with the basic skills requirement unless exempt, attain a passing score on the California Subject Examinations for Teachers in mathematics or science or completion of an approved subject matter program in mathematics or science, and attain a passing score on an examination or complete program subject matter requirements that are aligned to the academic content standards in mathematics or science for grades 8 to 12, inclusive, or complete specified coursework.

CSTA has several concerns about the language of this bill and currently holds a watch position while we continue to investigate all aspects.

SB 1324 (Wyland) Science Education: Science Curriculum

This bill would make specified findings and declarations and would require the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education to consider ways to increase the number of pupils who go to college and graduate with degrees in the various scientific and engineering fields. The bill would require the Superintendent and the state board to direct the appropriate entity to revise the science teaching frameworks and standards, as specified, and to incorporate in the science curriculum applied mathematics, reading comprehension, expository writing, analytical, intellectual, and creative skills, and engineering elements.

CSTA currently holds a watch position on this bill. It is still vague and we will monitor it for amendments and more information as it makes its way through the legislature.

Stay tuned to California Classroom Science for updates on these and other bills relating to science education.

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s executive director.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

4 Responses

  1. “This mandate has a high price tag, an estimated $200 million/year…’

    Because this mandate does not reduce the **number** of courses a high school student takes but only the number of **science** courses, we can reasonably assume that the cost of $200 million represents the difference in cost between taking one science course and one non-science course. With about 1.7 million high school students in California and maybe about 500,000 sophomores (fewer seniors due to drop outs), that cost translates to $400 per student for a single science course.

    This number may seem hard to believe. Are science teachers being paid that much more than their colleagues — ($400 x 150 = $60,000 salary differential)? I doubt it. Most don’t even make that much in total salary.

    Can lab materials make up the difference? Not likely. The per-student science lab budget for most schools is far below $100 and sometimes less than $20.

    However, when you begin to add up all of the costs of delivering current science instruction to tenth-grade students, you can see how much the cost can be. Begin with facilities. Equipping a high school with a new science lab can cost over $1 million, lots more than a plain classroom. That’s $50,000 per year if you assume a 20-year amortization. If 500 students use that space each year, the cost per student is $100. It could be more or less. Use your own figures if you wish.

    Next, consider that this space adds to the cost of liability insurance for the school. Use of chemicals in the lab will incur hazardous waste disposal costs too.

    The lab must have equipment: microscopes, balances, glassware, and so on. This equipment must be amortized, maintained, and replaced as necessary.

    Adding up **all** of the costs could lead to $400 extra per student per year. I’d really like to see where this estimate came from and the cost breakdown.

    California has all of this extra cost mandated, not really by the state but by the UCOP. The University of California Office of the President issued its ‘a-g’ requirements long ago. Among these is requirement ‘d’ that says that all high school science labs must be 100% supervised hands-on (actually touching materials) labs. If you’ll never apply to a UC or CSU, you don’t have to worry. However, many students in any California high school will apply. So, the requirement is on the school even though its written to apply to the students.

    This requirement is archaic. Its requirement of 20% of time in 100% supervised hands-on labs could be cut in half today with the remaining lab time being replaced by online labs with real, not simulated, experiments that require interactive data collection. For students not taking science courses for UC or CSU admission, the number could be reduced even more.

    It’s completely unnecessary to skewer science education in the budget when excellent and inexpensive alternatives are available to expensive science course add-ons.

    Some will argue that online labs will ruin their courses. I have two answers. In the first place, reducing the cost of science will undercut the entire budgetary argument against two years of science being required for graduation. (I think three or four years would be much better.) Secondly, don’t make a judgment until you’ve seen the evidence. Just because nothing you’ve seen yet can replace your wet labs doesn’t mean that nothing can.

    Just consider what prerecorded real experiments with interactive data collection could do for your courses. The breadth and depth of science lab investigations will increase greatly. The experiments are real and so include the crucial aspects of empirical work. The experiments work so that you never have a wasted lab period. You see all student work without any fudging of data to fit expectations and no copying from one student to another. You have a consistent lab report format that you can review online. There’s just so much more that is available and that could be available in the future.

    Speaking of which, this approach clearly is the future of science education. California should lead the way into that future.

    Fight back against this ridiculous budget idea and contact the UCOP to tell them to move into this century now. Real science can be done online. Just because you haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean you won’t if you just look.

  2. How much of this bill to cut science requirements is real expectations to the cut budget issues, and how much of this is merely politics? I have a feeling that this bill was creared without the expectation that it would pass, rather for shock-effect and to strong arm another bill through legislation.

  3. Dear John-Henry,

    It is possible that this is posturing. The administration is currently involved in a lawsuit with the Commission on State Mandates (CSM), scheduled for hearing in June, regarding the CSM’s rulings around the graduation mandate. It is my understanding that the governor’s office feels that the CSM was too broad in their determination as to what costs should be reimbursable.

    At the same time, this proposal is being touted as allowing for more local control, something the Brown administration has been promoting in its initiatives.

    That said, even if it is posturing, we still need to respond to our representatives in the legislature to let them know our position on this issue. If there is no uproar, then it could be perceived as a non-issue.

  4. [...] Education Bills Make Their Way Through the Legislature as Governor Brown’s Proposal to Eliminate t… [...]

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