[CESElist] Earth System Science Certification Program

Paula Messina pmessina at geosun.sjsu.edu
Tue Jul 31 22:44:59 MDT 2007

Hi, CESE Comrades!

I've been monitoring the dialog regarding the current state of ES 
education around the country.  There have been several 
questions/comments that I would like to address. 

    First, we at San Jose State University do run a section of our 
Introduction to Geology course just for high school students.  The lack 
of an Advanced Placement Geology curriculum caused a local ES teacher to 
contact us, inquiring whether we would consider offering his 
already-established college level Advanced Geology course for 
undergraduate credit.  After having reviewed his curriculum and labs, 
our department concluded that the teacher's course was as rigorous as 
any introductory lab science course. This partnership has been going on 
for three years; his students pay a bargain basement tuition for 3 
credits (about $75, which is lower than the cost for an A.P. Exam!) 
through an existing university program called "Bridge to College."  It's 
likely that other institutions have similar programs, and it's a superb 
win-win situation for everyone involved.  Not only do students earn 
college credit, but it's accepted at any institution as transfer 
credit--unlike an A.P. test--where even a score of 5 is no guarantee of 
earned credit (it's up to the discretion of the student's college).

    Second, it's highly unlikely that the College Board will develop a 
new ES/Geology curriculum any time soon.  They're currently in the 
second year of a three-year project redesigning all four A.P. science 
curricula (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science). The 
investment they're making in this project (with support from NSF) 
precludes the development of new curricula.

    Third, the University of California does not accept high school 
Earth Science as a lab science course.  It used to in the past, but it's 
now viewed as a mere "elective."  That U.C. lab credit issue has made it 
very difficult in our state for high schools to justify running such a 
class.  However, there's some good news to report.  A grassroots effort 
is underway in San Diego; it's been spearheaded by two physics teachers 
who flatly refused to deliver a mandated (and highly diluted) physics 
curriculum to HS freshmen.  The mandated course has been a system-wide 
disaster, and what these two teachers discovered was that when they 
taught their 9th graders Earth Science instead, science scores went up.  
In the era of No Child Left Behind, nothing speaks louder than higher 
test scores.  So now there's a growing number of schools in San Diego, 
the second largest district in California, that are offering Earth 
Science.  If this trend continues there's a possibility that the 
legislature will reverse its decision, and Earth Science may regain its 
lab science status at the U.C. 
    The same two teachers who stood up the the San Diego school board 
have also managed to get people at UC San Diego, San Diego State 
University, and Scripps Institute of Oceanography working together to 
help the growing number of educators who will be teaching ES for the 
first time.  They're running a workshop next week, in fact.

    Fourth, San Jose State University has a Science Education program 
that's housed in the College of Science.  Everyone who's a part of that 
program is a split appointee between Science Ed and a "home 
department."  In my opinion, this structure greatly enhances the 
education of our secondary science teaching credential students. I 
co-teach the Methods class on a rotation with my Science Ed colleagues, 
so our Methods class covers real inquiry-based techniques in all four 
single subject credential fields.  Our Science Ed Program (which is for 
prospective HS teachers) constitutes only a small percentage of SJSU's 
total pre-credential population: most are seeking K-8 multiple subject 
credentials through the College of Education.  I'm once again pleased to 
report that a course that my colleague, Ellen Metzger, developed (in 
Earth Systems) is recommended to all teacher preparation students.  The 
course is offered in multiple sections every semester, and it always 
fills to capacity. 
    For over a decade, we've also provided professional development 
workshops for in-service teachers through BAESI (the Bay Area Earth 
Science Institute).  I can therefore mirror Ed Robeck's comments about 
his own institution: SJSU supports the Earth Sciences, perhaps even 
particularly so in the case of teacher preparation and in-service programs.

    And finally, I can echo what was written by a former NYS veteran 
teacher, Tom McGuire, in that the Regents system offered an ES 
curriculum that is every bit as rigorous as any of the other lab science 
courses.  Let's hope that California follows suit!


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