May 05, 2006
Four years of science

There's now a proposal within HB1, still under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee, to require a fourth year of science and math in Texas high schools.

[I]f state lawmakers approve a proposal that's part of the school finance package now being considered, high schools would expect students to graduate with four years of math and science classes under the "recommended" high school curriculum. The curriculum currently includes three years of math and science.

The proposal is part of the Senate version of House Bill 1, which its Finance Committee will continue debating today.


About two-thirds of Texas high school graduates in 2004 followed either the "recommended" or more rigorous "distinguished" plan, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe.

That number probably will increase because the state began requiring students in 2004 to follow the recommended path unless they opt out with the approval of a parent or guardian.

Ratcliffe said the agency has not estimated the cost of the proposed math and science change but said the science requirement could be more costly because schools may need more lab space. She also pointed out that qualified math and science teachers are sometimes difficult for schools to find.

House Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, would give high schools another $500 per student per year, or almost $600 million statewide.


Debate over education reforms has derailed previous efforts in the Legislature to change the tax structure, which is why Perry has directed lawmakers to focus first on the tax questions.

Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, said that considering an extra year of math and science may need to wait until the next regular, 140-day legislative session, which begins in January.

"I don't find the idea of four years of math and science at all objectionable," Strama said. "I just want to make sure we don't allow the educational reforms to get in the way of lowering property taxes and increasing funding for public education."

For the record, Stuyvesant High School required four years of math and science. It was not uncommon, at least in my day, to take biology and chemistry concurrently, so you could be science-free as a senior, but you still had those two classes plus physics and a year of freshman intro science. Most people came in having already taken algebra, which counted towards the requirement, so you could also be math-free as a senior if you'd passed pre-calc as a junior.

I think it goes without saying that I support this idea, though if it has to wait till a regular session to get implemented I can live with that. I do have to wonder how you can contemplate this on the one hand and a shortsighted, idiotic refusal to buy current math textbooks for fifth graders on another, but then believing six impossible things before breakfast seems to be a prerequisite around here.

As you might imagine, the Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) is foursquare behind this proposal. Here's a letter (Word doc) they sent to Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden expressing that support. As always with things like this, if you have an opinion, a call to your Rep or Senator is never out of order.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 05, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

You know, the more I read, the more I am convinced our biggest education problem is the drop out rate in urban schools.

Curriculum changes and "accountability" are like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. If you've got schools where half the kids aren't graduating, why in the hell should be making it harder to graduate?

Posted by: Jim D on May 5, 2006 4:16 PM