1/18/2010 4:31 PM
A few items of business that didn't get as much of the spotlight at last week's State Board of Education meeting pertained to high school graduation requirements.
The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) met Jan. 12-15, where textbook curriculum standards took centerstage. The SBOE ended up postponing the second reading on the curricula until its March meeting -- thus moving a final vote until May, according to the TEA's Web site.
But the board approved a second reading on the state's requirement that students take four science credits and four math credits before graduating -- the "four by four" plan.
The current graduation plan requires that public secondary school students in the Recommended High School Program complete biology, chemistry and physics, in addition to four math classes (algebra, algebra II, geometry and one class beyond algebra, which can include a Math Modeling class). This plan was reaffirmed unanimously by the SBOE, in which students have an option of taking "Integrated Physics and Chemistry" (IPC) prior to taking physics and chemistry to count for class credit -- a subject of some controversy among educators in the seats during the four-day meeting. Many districts recommend IPC only for those who did not perform well in middle school science classes.
Some SBOE members said traditional physics classes are too rigorous for your average student to succeed in without adequate preparation (particularly those wanting to attend trade school or enter the workforce, rather than college -- some said), and that IPC should be maintained as an option for grades 9 and 10. Others insisted that IPC is a watered down version of the traditional curriculum and should be phased out.
Bob Craig, SBOE member, said phasing out IPC would be "an injustice to our students."
"I think IPC is a valuable course ... and can be used in substituting," he said. "Our test scores have gone up recently in science, and it can help people who want to take physics and chemistry later on."
"This new option could increase the success of Texas students in the three basic lab sciences," said Drew Scheberle, a senior vice president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, hailing IPC as a viable option for students.
But as far as math standards go, that's another case.
"At the same time, the State Board of Education unfortunately weakened math expectations in the Recommended High School Program. Eleventh grade students must complete algebra, geometry, algebra II and math beyond algebra II," he continued. "The State Board of Education voted to allow a student to take a lower-level math course [such as the aforementioned Math Modeling class, which teaches students how to use math to solve "real-life problems" -- a course some consider to be watered-down] instead of statistics, pre-calculus or career [and] technology courses which require application of these math concepts. With Texas’ sizable college math remediation rates, and the increasing importance of math in all manners of technical and vocational occupations, the Austin Chamber of Commerce hopes the SBOE will revisit and rectify this issue quickly.”
In other business, the SBOE approved an amendment to the graduation requirements to allow modified physical education to count for all three high school plans (Minimum, Recommended and Advanced). Currently, taking three years of modified P.E. is only satisfactory for the Mimimum plan -- which was a problem for the academically ambitious who happen to be physically disabled.
The amendment came after testimony by Jonathon Stach, a wheelchair-bound student with muscular atrophy, and Rep. Joe Farias (D-San Antonio) who spoke on his behalf. Farias said if the SBOE did not amend the graduation requirments, he would seek legislation in the 82nd Legislature.
As far as the debate over digital textbooks goes, that was also a topic -- albeit a brief one. The SBOE approved a second reading of an amendment from December that clears the way for open-source texts.
"I think this body wants to make sure that students have access to all materials ..." SBOE Chair Gail Lowe said, after a comment that the technology may not be reliable at first, or easily repaired/serviced in rural areas. Lowe previously said the board supports both print and digital textbooks as options for students.