[CESElist] Earth System Science Certification Program
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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