Florida Legislature’s first science/math backlash bill of the year, HB 111

The September 3 edition of the St. Petersburg Times noted the filing of HB 111, which would establish a “career diploma” for Florida high schools.  It was filed by Apopka Republican Bryan Nelson, who lists his occupation as “insurance agent” and who filed a similar bill last year (HB 1249).  Like last year’s bills that attempted to roll back new graduation requirements in science and math, HB 111 would delete the requirements for Algebra 2 and “chemistry or physics”.  As a result, the math required for graduation would be Algebra 1 and Geometry, and the science would be Biology 1 and two other science courses.

The bill would effectively abrogate the state’s new science standards on high school level physical and Earth sciences, as last year’s backlash bills also would have done.

I made the argument against the abrogation of the physical science standards last spring, referring to Representative Nelson’s 2011 bill:

Many educators and parents worry that the new high school graduation requirements signed into law last spring, especially the requirements to pass Algebra 2 and either Chemistry 1 or Physics 1, will keep many non-college bound students from graduating.  At first blush, the bills filed by Senator Hays and Representative Nelson seem to address these concerns.

But the leadership of the Florida Department of Education already solved this problem last summer by authorizing school districts to use “Principles of Technology” to satisfy the “chemistry or physics” requirement for graduation.  In other words, the concerns that parents and educators have expressed about keeping hard-working non-college bound students from graduating are unfounded.

In this context, the companion bills are simply statements by Senator Hays and Representative Nelson that non-college bound students do not need to be scientifically literate.

Senator Hays and Representative Nelson should withdraw their bills.

As far as the requirement for dropping the Algebra 2 graduation requirement goes, it is worth noting a New York Times article from July 1, 2010 that manufacturers are having trouble finding assembly line workers because the new generation of assembly-line jobs requires mathematical skills that most of those out of work do not possess.

It’s worth noting that the St. Pete Times article included a significant misstatement.  The article said,

The bill, filed by Rep. Bryan Nelson, a Republican from Apopka, would retain most requirements of a standard diploma in this new model. Those would include three credits in science including biology, four credits in math including algebra and geometry, and four credits in English. Where it would deviate is in the area of electives.

The bill proposes to drop the Algebra 2 and “chemistry or physics” requirements.  These are not electives in the present graduation requirements, and to say that they are ignores their importance to Florida’s future workforce and the economic and civic futures of Florida’s citizens.

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One Response to Florida Legislature’s first science/math backlash bill of the year, HB 111

  1. Doc Carr says:

    OK, I’ll play the devil’s advocate here:

    First, I don’t see the connection between HS Algebra 2 and the needs of high-end manufacturing jobs. Algebra problems that all use integer values or involve equations with log functions, etc have nothing to do with using shop math, making precision measurements, or learning statistical process control.

    Second, I don’t see how this change would affect you (the collective “you” at any of the state universities) at all. I would expect that FSU would summarily reject any student who applied with a “career diploma” unless they fit into exceptions carved out for young people who passed an audition indicating they can dance, paint, or play football, basketball, baseball, or the piano really well. You already reject those same students based on SAT scores (with those same exceptions), and you could easily add an exception for a kid with shop stats and principles of technology and a 1400 SAT.

    To the extent that this exception MIGHT reduce the chance that end-of-course exams would get watered down and increase the chance that more science is required for what was called the “college prep” program back in my youth, it would help you a lot in the huge political battle you face to impose higher standards for graduation.

    I think it might help us in the CC world as well. If those proposed standards do what they should, it would mean students coming to us with a regular diploma from a “tested” school could reasonably be expected to place into college-level classes and finish an AA in the expected three years or less, feeding you a second wave of qualified students.

    Further, I think students from “untested” private schools or with a “career diploma” who that lack appropriate ACT or SAT scores would be more likely to understand why they place into pre-college reading and math classes, increasing the odds that they will take them seriously and have a chance at finishing an AA in four years. At present, too many recent grads believe the propaganda that implies passing the FCAT and graduating HS means they are ready for college when they can’t even use fractions.

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