The History of the Graduation Requirement Mandate
Posted: Thursday, March 1st, 2012
by Carolyn Holcroft
To truly understand the context behind the current dialog and debate regarding the proposed graduation requirement mandate elimination, we have to go back to 1979. That year California voters passed Proposition 4, thus requiring the State of California to reimburse local governments (including schools) for any increased costs resulting from new programs or higher levels of service required by state law, technically labeled a “mandate.” (This was ultimately codified in Government Code section 17561.) Right now there are 51 mandates on the books for which the state must reimburse schools.
This background helps inform the current situation because a mandate was effectively created when California Education Code section 51225.3 (a)(1)(C) was added by Chapter 498, Statutes of 1983. Prior to 1986, California high school students were required to complete only one high school science course in order to graduate. However, §51225.3 increased the minimum requirement to two science courses – one in physical science and one in biological science. The Commission on State Mandates (CSM) subsequently identified this new requirement as a mandate in November, 1986, and then in March 1988, they adopted the “Parameters and Guidelines,” which formally established the mandate and defined which costs associated with the additional science requirement were eligible for reimbursement.
When the mandate was originally imposed, the costs associated with requiring an additional science course were predicted to be reasonably within the state’s financial resources. This changed, though, when the San Diego Unified School District finally won a law suit against the CSM in 2004. The case was Sacramento County Superior Court Case No. 03CS0140 and had begun years earlier in the 1980s. The SDUSD (and several other schools) had filed reimbursement claims in which they included salary costs incurred from staffing the additional science course. However, the state asserted such expenditures were excluded because the cost of staffing the second science course could be offset by cancelling other “elective” courses – that is, the additional science course could be offered in lieu of, rather than in addition to, other non-core curricular offerings. After years of legal battle the court finally concluded in 2004 that the language in 51225.3 only required a second science course and did not mandate the elimination of any other curriculum in lieu of the second science course requirement.
The second major occurrence leading to the current crisis was a 2008 court decision in the case, “California School Boards Association (CSBA) vs. State of California.” The troubles precipitating this suit began in 2002 when the California Legislature began the practice of appropriating $1,000 for each K-12 mandate and “deferring” payment of the remaining balances, asserting that this met the legal obligation for reimbursement at least temporarily, and that the balances would be paid at some future (unspecified) time. In 2007, CSBA sued the state for the remaining monies and requested the court prohibit the state from continuing their practice of deferral. On December 4, 2008, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled that the practice of deferral is unconstitutional and this decision was subsequently upheld on appeal in a legal opinion dated February 9, 2011. However, the court did not order the state to cough up the rest of the money it owed, estimated at the time to be approximately $900 million for all underfunded mandates, stating that this would be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.
In light of the 2004 and 2007 court decisions, the CSM was obliged to amend the parameters and guidelines for the additional science class mandate. Amended parameters and guidelines were initially adopted in November 2008, but then “corrected” parameters and guidelines were issued in December 2008, and it is this document that outlines the current rules for mandate-related reimbursement. These amended versions changed and clarified the way that school districts can claim increased costs associated with the additional science class, such as teaching salary costs and acquisition of space, equipment, and supplies. It’s especially important to note that the most recently adopted parameters and guidelines amendment is effective back to January 1, 2005 – that is, school districts can submit adjusted reimbursement claims retroactive all the way back to January 2005. The State Controller’s Office (SCO) just released the “Claiming Instructions” for the amended claims parameters in July 2011 and not surprisingly, school districts are submitting revised claims for additional costs not allowed under the original parameters and guidelines, and these are predicted to lead to a tremendous increase in cost to the state. At this point the mandate requiring a second science class is estimated to be one of the top two most expensive mandates the state must fund, perhaps exceeding $200 million.
Coming back to the present day…it is rumored that Governor Brown’s office is looking to modify that statute, as recommended in the LAO report, to maintain the requirement of two years of science to graduate from high school without it being a reimbursable mandate. Additionally, the Department of Finance still has litigation pending against the Commission on State Mandates (Sacramento Superior Court Case # 34-2010-80000529-CU-WM-GDS, Department 31) regarding the guidelines the CSM adopted in 2008. This case is currently scheduled for hearing on June 1.
CSTA will continue to pursue this issue and keep the membership informed of new developments.
Posted: Monday, April 14th, 2014
The Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) Rubric for Lessons & Units: Science was released April 11, 2014. The Rubric provides criteria by which to measure the alignment and overall quality of lessons and units with respect to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The purpose of the Rubric is to (1) provide constructive criterion-based feedback to developers; (2) review existing instructional materials to determine what revisions are needed; and (3) identify exemplars/models for teachers’ use within and across states.
This document was developed in response to the recognition among educators that while curriculum and instruction will need to shift with the adoption of the NGSS, there is currently a lack of high-quality, NGSS-aligned materials. The power of the rubric is in the feedback it provides curriculum developers and in the productive conversations educators can have while evaluating materials. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, April 14th, 2014
by Jessica Sawko
On Thursday, April 10, 2014 CDE Staff, friends, and colleagues of CSTA member Phil Lafontaine gathered to celebrate his incredible career as a science educator and state employee of the California Department of Education, and to wish him an enjoyable retirement. There were many CSTA members in attendance to celebrate Phil and his contributions to education, and science education in particular. Phil was presented with several retirement gifts, including a customized San Francisco Giants jersey, and a Senate Resolution honoring his career and service. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Updated April 8, 2014
K-12 Alliance/WestEd, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the California Department of Education Presents: Next Generation Science Standards State Rollout Symposium #1.
Join science leaders at the first of a series of statewide professional learning symposia exploring the philosophy, design, and initial implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Learn More…
What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate: Evaluating Negotiation in an Elementary Science Classroom
Posted: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
by Mason Kuhn
Engaging students in negotiation with their peers is considered a central motivation for recent national policy recommendations (National Research Council, 2011) and has been a focus of much scholarship in science education (e.g. Bergland and Reiser, 2009 & Hand, 2008). In the Next Generation Science Standards under the heading “Science and Engineering Practices,” the term “Engaging in Argument From Evidence” appears in almost every standard. However, most literature on negotiation focuses on theory, where little focuses on the topic of negotiation as related to science teaching and learning. Learn More…
Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
by Laura Henriques
Updated April 8, 2014
This month’s issue of CCS focuses on biology and chemistry. Articles in this issue highlight some of the challenges around teaching these topics as we move towards Common Core and NGSS implementation. Jeanine Wulfenstein points out that the ideas are often abstract and difficult for students to grasp. These topics include a large number of vocabulary words that can get in the way of understanding, especially for English learners and students with special needs. Barbara Woods points out how discrepant events can be used to motivate and engage students by including the wow factor. Both articles provide us with teaching strategies that engage and support students while incorporating aspects of NGSS and Common Core.
I do not think any of us could teach chemistry (or other abstract topics) without using models (one of the NGSS science and engineering practices). A discrepant event or surprising moment causes us to ask questions (another of the science and engineering practices). These questions are followed by investigations, tentative explanations and more investigations as students and teachers try to make sense of natural phenomena (even more science and engineering practices!). This approach puts the student-developed models to the test. Adjustments need to be made and the model gets refined. As they explain relationships, cause and effect, and try to make sense of the science they are seeing, they are meeting Common Core standards and science standards. Learn More…