September 2015 – Vol. 28 No. 1

Second Year Science Graduation Requirement Elimination: Governor Stands Firm

Posted: Monday, June 4th, 2012

by Jessica L. Sawko

In his May revision of the 212-2013 budget, the governor made several changes to his education block grant proposal (designed to reform the education mandate system, of which the graduation requirement is a part). One thing he did not change was his proposal to eliminate the “Graduation Requirement” mandate, which requires high school students to complete two years of science to fulfill their graduation requirements.

CSTA has been reporting and acting on the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Graduation Requirement mandate since February (MarchAprilMay). In May, CSTA teamed up with the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet). Our combined efforts have resulted in gaining support for our position of opposing the Governor’s proposal in the Assembly, but there is still work to be done in the Senate. 

At one time there were thoughts circulating that there was a way to maintain the graduation requirement, but eliminate the burden and expense of the mandate. CSTA has since learned that this is not the case.

What can you do? Contact your local Assembly and Senate representative at their local office (simply enter your home address and click find) and let them know that you oppose the governor’s proposal to eliminate the second year science graduation mandate and weaken science education in California. Eliminating this mandate could result in serious equity issues, with those students in districts with the means to continue to provide two, three, and four years of science doing so, and those students in districts forced to make difficult choices eliminating their physical science courses. Let them know that

  • overturning 30 years of existing law requiring two years of science is short sighted and lacks a vision for a future, for that matter today, that requires students to have a solid basis in the skills only learned in a science classroom (critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, etc.).
  • eliminating the the second year science graduation requirement will place students in jeopardy of being ineligible to apply to a CSU or UC.

Budget discussions are on going and your action is needed today!

What would the elimination of this mandate mean for your school and district. Let us know your thoughts. Please also let us know if you have contacted your representative and any response you may have received. You can let us know via comment below or by sending an email to

For information bills CSTA is tracking, please click here.

Jessica L. Sawko is executive director of the California Science Teachers Association.

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.

16 Responses

  1. How unsurprising. Note that after all the cutbacks and shuffling off of non-core classes over the past decade it was clear that the biggest chance to save money is by zapping science. Science is expensive, especially in consumables.

    The “brains trust” in Sacramento probably see no other way to save money in significant amounts and are probably hoping the the CTE “replacements” such as the dubious PLTW program will still cover enough science for those who care, if they can continue to get grants for them.

    They’ve blasted teachers and will again. They’ve removed pretty much all but the core and are now attacking that. It’d have been smarter to get rid of districts and let schools self-manage and have the counties do oversight. Who knows, maybe they’re next.

  2. The concept of reducing the cost of public education by cutting any specific high school graduation requirement does not make any sense to me unless it is coupled with the reduction of the number of credits required for the high school diploma. That would appear to be false economy. There is no differential in teacher salaries based on the subjects they teach nor is there any special state funding for science classes that I am aware of. There is a minimum number of credits for the diploma. For the sake of discussion, let’s say students must earn 240 credits for four years of study, six one-year courses per year each worth 10 credits. Where is there a savings if students still take the same number of credits? Certainly reducing the time that students spend in the classroom per day and per school year may allow savings if school employee salaries are cut based on reduced service. That makes sense fiscally. But, of course, any reductions in educational time will have a long term impact on the student’s education as well as society in the long term. If we are unwilling or unable to maintain the level of funding for a quality education, we will certainly get what we pay for and that is a less educated citizenry. Singling out science or any other subject areas for reduction does not really add up.

  3. Most districts fund science through their “discretionary” funds therefore there are no “earmarked” funds for science. A student who takes a non laboratory class cost the state the same. One might think, oh, it’s the textbooks. Wrong again. Textbooks pretty much all fall in the same ballpark when it comes to cost. I can see no logic what so ever to the state cutting specific course requirements. I can understand to logic of reducing the teaching day and the teaching year in that employees spend less time working, the get paid less.

  4. Cutting out a 2-year science graduation requirement is just plain foolish. It should be expanded to 3 years. That said, science courses are ripe for targets of cost-cutters. They just plain cost too much.

    I cannot say whether the state’s estimate of $400 per high school student is anywhere near accurate, but it certainly gets people’s attention. There’s the cost of building lab facilities, of maintaining them, of insuring them, of the equipment in them, of repairing and replacing that equipment, and of consumables. You don’t have those costs in your basic math classes.

    The answer is really simple. Use technology to save enough of that money to make the state back off. So far, technology has been used in ways that increase costs (e.g. probes) or that pervert the science (simulations as labs instead of as visualization aids or models for comparison with real data). That can change because you now can do real experiments online with actual point-by-point data collection. No predetermined data either by formula or by data table. The student determines what data are collected and what their values are. Just search for “online science labs” to find out more. Do not settle for simulations. Do not allow the state to single out science for bad treatment just because labs are expensive.

    You can flip your science labs and have time in class to discuss the results and so get more learning. Students can understand the nature of science and engage in scientific thinking more than ever. They can do hundreds of experiments each year instead of dozens. You can have everything, all student work including data points, online and ready to be analyzed. It’s a new era in science education.

  5. In my 32 years of teaching chemistry, the utmost in consumable lab materials, I have NEVER been given $400 per student to fund my labs. Therefore, I have learned how to do lab on a budget either by doing more small scale labs with less supplies or by getting my community to support our lab by way of donations of old equipment from beakers to hot plates to baking soda!
    Teachers are resourceful and will find ways to deal with less money for their classes but if we cut the graduation requirement to one year of science, the inequity for students will grow as less students take science and we will graduate less citizens able to comprehend and make good decisions about the rather technical world around them.

  6. I am not understanding our state government. The White house says more more, and Brown says less less less. So lets eliminate science requirement, that will put us in the lead of the rest of the country in science and technology. We need to vote everyone out of office in Califronia, and find some people with forward thinking not backward.

  7. Thank you for all your comments. Please keep them coming. Please also spread the word and contact your Assembly and Senate representatives.

  8. i am appalled at the dumbing down of california atudents. Years ago we moved to California specifically because of the high quality of education available to our children at all levels, including the university. Those opportunities are no longer available to young people. Is it a wonder the jail system is so crowded? Uneducated people are unable to earn, and turn to whatever is at hand for i ncome.
    Especially now in world competing so intensely in the sciences, we should be increasing not decreasing the amount of science taught in schools.

  9. The issue is the funding owed schools by the state, that they are not paying anyway. As long as it is a requirement the state owes the school district money. As soon as this is no longer required the state no longer owes school districts money.

    The state wants to stop accumulating an unpaid bill. I understand part of the problem is that school districts here in california are funded much differently then they are in other parts of the country, for example, the east coast.

  10. Lusa, yes, funding for California schools comes mostly from the state level. A good summary of the funding of schools in California can be found on Ed Source:

  11. Recent media coverage on this issue:

    LA Times:,0,2454775.story

    KQED Forum:

  12. I am deeply saddened that Jerry Brown would even consider this avenue of cutting state costs. To cheat our children out of one of the basic foundations of their education will most certainly have long term detrimental effects. How does this huge cut help our young adults to be successful in college and in turn give them more options for their future? I strongly urge Jerry Brown and his advisers to search elsewhere to do their “fat” trimming.

  13. […] The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe in its June 9, 2012 episode did a service to anyone concerned about science and science education with three news stories highlighting three attacks from three different angles. One of those stories was the decision by the South Korean Ministry of Education, Science, and technology (MEST) to “…produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.” (via NCSE) But, the Rogues also ridiculed North Carolina for legislating the selection of data involving the effect of AGW-altered sea levels on coastline erosion and California for dumbing down high school science requirements. […]

  14. our district superintendent makes $300,000 a year.
    I buy my own lab supplies, and use as many of the broken microscopes as i can.
    My equipment is old and out of date.
    I have students who want to go into the medical field.
    Other students look at me like I’m nuts to talk about education. They see a future in selling drugs.

  15. […] Second Year Science Graduation Requirement Elimination: Governor Stands Firm […]

  16. […] Second Year Science Graduation Requirement Elimination: Governor Stands Firm […]

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More Than 1,400 Science Educators Prepare to Convene in Sacramento

Posted: Thursday, September 17th, 2015

by Deb Farkas

As we get ready to go full steam ahead with implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards and eagerly await the new California Science Framework, there is no better place to be in early October than here in Sacramento, where you will find workshops, speakers, field experiences, short courses and more to inspire and re-energize your teaching. If you are not one of the more than 1,000 teachers to have registered, I invite you to do so today.

Don’t miss opening speaker, Ainissa Ramirez. Author, engineer and science evangelist, Dr. Ramirez will encourage us to ignite the spark of curiosity in all of our students and get them excited about science. Former astronaut José Hernández will close our conference with an account of his journey from migrant farm worker to engineer to mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery, and his work inspiring children to “reach for the stars.” We are also pleased to offer you a variety of highly regarded focus speakers in science and education. Learn about a strength-based approach to early science education, bringing deep sea data to the classroom, ZomBees, engaging students in engineering, and literacy, non-verbal communication patterns and social justice in the science classroom. Learn More…

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.

Trying NGSS with Paper Clips and Gummy Worms

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

By now, most teachers have heard of NGSS, know that it is not going away, and have realized they will be teaching this new set of standards within the next few years. While some are excited at the possibility of new happenings, others are terrified at the prospect of having to change curriculum that they have spent years fine-tuning and tweaking. A few districts are implementing NGSS early, working out the kinks and creating guides for the rest of the state, but what about the teachers that want to venture out and try the new curriculum without the support of the entire district? It seems daunting, but there are some ways to ease into the NGSS world. Learn More…

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is the K-5 science specialist at Meadows Elementary in Manhattan Beach, CA, and CSTA’s intermediate grades 3-5) Director.

High School Teachers – We Need Your Help!

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

CSTA and its partners are trying to get a sense of what high school science looks like across the state. We are interested in knowing how many years of science your district requires for graduation, what the typical course taking patterns are, and a sense of the high school science teaching workforce. If you are in a position to answer these questions please take the survey. If you can’t provide that information we ask that you share this link with your district science leader or other appropriate administrator. It should not take very long to complete (less than 5 minutes) and the information will help CSTA and our partners as we plan NGSS activities and support. Thank you for filling out the survey yourself or for directing it to the appropriate person.

Take Survey

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.

CSTA Honors Rising Stars, Advocates, and Distinguished Contributors to Science Education in 2015

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Legislator of the Year, Future Science Teacher, Honorary Memberships, and the new Bertrand Advocacy Award. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2015 California Science Education Conference on October 2 – 4 in Sacramento. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them! Learn More…

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.

Northern Happenings for September–Region 1

Posted: Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

September already – allow me to add my welcome back wish to the others you are hearing across all 29 counties that make up CSTA Region 1!


CSTA Regions Map

It has certainly been a busy summer with California Science Project events across the region, and lots of activity at Math Science Partnership Grant projects as well. As you come back to class this fall, consider your summer learning, and think about how you might share it at a future CSTA conference! This year you will no doubt be trying out what you learned in your classes. By next spring you will know what you could share with colleagues at the 2016 Science Educators Conference to be held in Palm Springs. It seems a long time from now, but if you have the idea in mind as you teach your students, you can be on the lookout for what would be wonderful to share with other K-12 teachers in California. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.