Others have written more extensively about the drawbacks of this new approach (links below). I agree with the one dissenting board member, Lori Roetlin, that the administration should go back to the drawing board and develop a proposal that would not make acceleration so problematic. In particular, I have the following concerns (all of which have been raised by others as well):
- The new requirement, by incentivizing students to double up on science courses, will inevitably hurt enrollment in other elective courses. It will likely decrease participation in music and art courses. Many disciplines, given free rein, might choose to expand their share of the students’ school day, but the board needs to take all disciplines into account when setting curricular requirements.
- The 95th-percentile cutoff for allowing students to accelerate in eighth grade appears to be entirely arbitrary—designed to fill a set number of seats, rather than to match students with the best course. As Karen W. writes, “The Iowa Assessments are not placement exams and the administration has provided no evidence that this particular cut score would predict success in the new [Earth and Space Science] course or that students with lower scores would not be successful.”
More broadly, I’d like to see the board discuss the way the district uses Iowa Assessment scores to limit enrollment in advanced courses. What are the costs and benefits of that system as opposed to one in which students (with the advice of parents and counselors) could self-enroll in advanced course by choice?
- The 95th percentile cutoff appears likely to have the effect of minimizing the number of minority students enrolled in the accelerated science track (see commentary here and here).
- I’m not convinced that the new approach is the only workable way to comply with the state science standards. Karen W. makes a good case for the idea the material that would be covered in the 7th-8th-9th-grade sequence could be covered in 7th and 8th grade in an accelerated course, without doubling up. Apparently alternative approaches are being taken elsewhere (see the comments here).
Others have expanded on this list of concerns. Here is a list of posts on the topic (please chime in with a comment if I’ve missed any):
ICCSD Science Program Proposal, Revisited
Curriculum Review and the School Board
New science curriculum deserves more attention
ICCSD Science Program Proposal
Community Comment 11/8
Proposed changes to the science curriculum
More Questions Than Answers
Science Curriculum Review Report