Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Call to Action -- D86 Community Members Concerned with Next Year's Science Curriculum Changes, the time to Speak Out is Now!

We have been asked to publish the following comment submitted on our last post.  Please read and take action!

"D86 Community - especially Hinsdale Central parents and parents of 8th graders:

There are some very significant changes that are being put into place next year that would completely change the Science curriculum at Hinsdale Central. Many popular classes are being eliminated and the Biology - Chemistry - Physics track that has worked successfully for our students for decades is being completely thrown out in favor of a model that more closely resembles what Hinsdale South offers its students. The community was just notified about these changes 2 weeks ago at a Board meeting and in the Board meeting e-mail summary which most people missed. There was very little discussion at the meeting and very few questions from the Board about the proposal. One of the BOE members who has students at Central was not even present to hear the presentation or ask questions. This kind of change without analysis by the Board and input from the community is unprecedented in our district.

The parents and community members who are aware of these changes are concerned about them for the following reasons, among others:

  • None of our peer districts offer a Science program similar to what has been proposed
  • Hinsdale Central's Science Department, while not perfect, delivers some of the highest Science scores in the State and Nationally at both grade level and the Honors level
  • There has been no data presented that supports completely changing the Central Science Department in the way that has been decided
  • There was no discussion about how this new program will be monitored and how we will determine its success or failure in the future
  • Parents have also been told that "G level" classes (IEP and 504 plan students) in Science will be going away at the same time, pushing those students into general Science classes which will now be 'co-taught" by teachers 
  • Popular science classes such as Mr. McCloud's Earth Science class and AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 will be eliminated, among others
  • Traditional Chemistry and Physics classes will be replaced with "Geo-Physics" and "Geo-Chemistry" classes.
  • All entering Freshman who complete Algebra as 8th graders will be placed in an Honors Physics class.
  • Upperclass Physics teachers will be teaching freshman Physics classes while and until new teachers are licensed to teach Physics
  • Parents have heard from some Central teachers that they have concerns about these changes
  • Parents have heard that changes to the Math department have also already been made or that they will be soon.
  • If you are a parent who is concerned about these changes, or would like more information to be shared with the community before these changes are implemented in a permanent way, please e-mail the Board of Education and ask them to put the topic of Science on their Agenda for the next Board meeting which is on November 14. It may already be too late but we won't know unless we try to slow this down and get more information."

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Teacher Speaks Out About Issues that Exist with a Physics First Science Sequence

Last week we received a comment on our post "Is D86 in Trouble" from a teacher who has experience with implementation of a Physics First science sequence at his/her high school. It made us realize that if D86 goes down this path without the Board of Education revisiting this issue, thoroughly vetting what Physics First will mean for all students in D86 abd insist that the D86 Administration present actual data from comparable districts that have successfully implemented the model it plans to roll out, then our high school district will most likely be in serious trouble.  

With permission from the author, we are publishing his/her comment as a free-standing post. After reading it, please SPEAK OUT!

"Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in a district that has implemented physics first. I would like to share with you portions of an email I recently wrote to a former colleague who was instrumental in bringing physics first to our district. It has been edited to remove personal details and other things irrelevant to the conversation. I think the text will speak for itself.

“To say that as of right now, physics first is a catastrophic failure on every level is an understatement. The transition to physics first has transformed the physics curriculum into a testing ground for the worst sorts of ideas that come out of education schools. This has left our physics curriculum as what can be generously described as a middle school physical science class, and is in reality a glorified arts and crafts class for many students every year.

The reasons for the this are many, but include the following:
1. students sorted into an "honors" and a "regular" track based on their incoming reading scores, and not their math scores, because the physics is thought to be “conceptual" and therefore free of any quantitative reasoning.

2. students transferring in and out of the district being negatively impacted by placing them in classes with students 2-3 years younger than they are, which is inappropriate for both the transfer student and the other, younger students in the class.

3. the creation of an curriculum which is simply designed around "fun" arts and crafts style activities, robbing the majority of the students in the district of anything resembling an appropriate high school physics (or even physical science) education

4. the fact that now about 2/3rds of the "physics teachers" in the district have a sub-high school level understanding of the subject they teach, and little to no desire or incentive to improve upon their knowledge base. The curriculum has been geared and is currently being change so that everyone must teach down to their level.

I could go on with specific examples (like a district level "project based learning" unit where students are encouraged to call local body shops and ask the mechanics how Newton's First Law relates to their jobs), but I hope that you can see from the few examples what I have outlined that the physics curriculum is currently in dire shape.

Over the past few years, I have had to spend many hours fighting to keep something resembling academic rigor in existence in the physics classes, sometimes with success and sometimes without. Many of my days are spent making the case that what we are doing is in fact harmful to our students, and many of the administrators either don't care or seem to want to remain willfully ignorant of this fact. In fact, the ideas spawned for the physics first classes are now seeping their way up into chemistry and biology, much to the chagrin of many of your former colleagues. I like to paraphrase the a poem for the other science teachers when they complain by saying "First they came for the physics teachers, and I said nothing, for I did not teach physics..."

My question for you is this: did you honestly believe that physics first was going to be successful, and if so, why? I have searched diligently, and I have never been able to find any strong corroborating evidence in the research literature that physics first has had any positive effect on student learning anywhere. All I find is quasi-philosophical opinion pieces, which are endemic in education "research" but are not in any way helpful in trying to teach something resembling a grade appropriate physics curriculum to my students.”

I urge everyone hear to try as hard as you can to stop this initiative. Simply put: there is no strong evidence that it is better than a traditional curriculum sequence when done right, and a very high probability that it will be done wrong, with disastrous consequences. Good luck.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Is D86 in Trouble?

Moments ago we were surprised to receive notification that a comment was posted on our Final Blog post published in March 2018.  After reading it we decided to go ahead and honor the request to create a free-standing post. We are posting it here to see if there is any interest in having our blog made available for community members and D86 teachers to submit comments or posts that they want us to run on current D86 issues -- anonymously or not.  We are not so sure about the request to create a blog called D86 Parents for Accountability and Transparency, but we guess anything is possible........

"Anonymous said...
Help!!! D86 is in trouble. Please consider running this comment as a free standing post to get some discussion going. Last night the D86 Board of Education agreed to dismantle the science sequence currently taught at Hinsdale Central High School and phase in the Physics First sequence offered at South. This will include eliminating G-level classes. It is eerily reminiscent of the Learning for All plan that D181 experienced. This is going to have major implications on the district going forward. Teachers are afraid to speak out publicly. This may be the only avenue they have to be candid about what they think. I know you haven't posted since March 2018, but we need your help! Maybe you can even start a blog called D86 Parents for Accountability and Transparency? Please??????"

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