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New science curriculum sparked major debate

Science department co-heads fight hard against district implemented curriculum for coming year

Ella Andersen and Elsa Anderson
Originally published February 16, 2018

Olivia KnollStudents work on a lab in Dr. Moody's chemistry class.

Olivia Knoll

Students work on a lab in Dr. Moody’s chemistry class.

Discussion has erupted about the science curriculum changes that are coming for the 2018-2019 school year. The new schedule would have had all ninth graders take Physics A and Chemistry A. Tenth graders would take biology. Juniors would take Physics B and Chemistry B, and seniors would take a science class of their choosing. This schedule did not allow any deviation from this science path.

Due to the reactions from the community, the curriculum has been adjusted for the following year. It now consists of most freshman coming in and taking Physics 1/Chemistry 1, but students that are advanced in math would be able to go straight into biology. Students would then go on to take a full year of chemistry then a full year of physics, as opposed to the previous proposal’s option of half a year of chem and physics.

Biotech will remain untouched by this, as well as HCC students.

This issue has been divisive. Chemistry teacher Dewey Moody has argued against the idea for a number of reasons. “This is the new proposal,” Moody said. “And it’s being rammed down our throats. And there’s a lot of us that aren’t very happy about this because it brings up a lot of problems.”

Physics teacher Eric Muhs has also showed opposition to this idea. Along with Moody,  he handed out an information sheet outlining the changes that will be made with the new curriculum. It also urged parents to contact district employees and board members to voice their opinions. Teachers learned about the new curriculum the weekend after Thanksgiving. “We were as surprised as you,” Muhs said.

Seattle Public Schools Chief of Curriculum Kyle Kinoshita and Seattle Public Schools Science Program Manager Mary-Margaret Welch are spearheading the new alignment. In response to community concern, they provided numerous documents outlining their plans, some directed specifically at the school for its immense outcry.

One document entitled, “Response to parent communications from Ballard High School,” addresses the issue that math would have to be removed from freshman physics and chemistry because some students’ math level may not be as advanced as is necessary for the class. This document states that “the very purpose of the new state standards and the school district’s realignment is to ensure that science content learned by students, the higher-level science skills, and the mathematics are in place. The idea that mathematics is de-coupled from science is simply not true.” This doesn’t directly address, however, the fact that freshman likely won’t have the math abilities that go along with these more rigorous classes. Currently, students must be in at least geometry in order to take biology, and biology is a prerequisite course for chemistry.

Senior Sarah Hudson took chemistry as a sophomore and is currently taking physics. “I would say a lot of people would probably agree with this that [chemistry is] one of the harder classes that you take,” Hudson said. “There’s a lot going on and even having a whole year to do it, it’s already rushed on time and we don’t really have off days.”

Additionally, the timeline of the alignment has been a source of worry. The adjusted curriculum would likely require new textbooks. Teachers have expressed worry that their classrooms are not equipped to teach other subjects, or that teachers themselves will need a different certification in order to teach other disciplines of science. “Is this room, where I reside, equipped for physics? No,” Moody said.

The reason that this proposal made it so far is because Kinoshita pitched this new curriculum as an alignment, as opposed to an adoption. Because the curriculum change is characterized as an “alignment,” it doesn’t need to go through the school board. A curriculum “alignment” does not contain new content while a curriculum “adoption” does. The change in material causes the curriculum to be approved by the school board.

The community made so much noise with the district that the changes have been made to fit better with the school’s needs, as well as the new Earth Science Standards that are being integrated into Phys 1/Chem 1 and Biology. No current students will have to change their science path.

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New science curriculum sparked major debate