Ever since the 2010 Florida Legislature passed new graduation requirements in math and science for Florida’s high schools, there have been repeated attempts to dilute the requirements for Algebra 2 and “chemistry or physics” which many district officials and school board members saw as threats to their graduation rates. Representative Nelson’s bill, HB 111, is this year’s attempt. He proposes to establish a “career diploma” that requires Algebra 1 and Geometry (or their State Board of Education-approved substitutes), dropping Algebra 2 altogether. In science, the “chemistry or physics” requirement is deleted in Nelson’s bill, and only biology (and its end-of-course exam) is explicitly required. HB 111 would gut the state’s new science standards further, and carry Florida farther away from the “Framework for K-12 Science Education” recently released by the National Research Council.
Now comes a bill, SB 756, from Senator Stephen Wise, Chair of the chamber’s PreK-12 Education Committee, and therefore a powerful member. Last year, Senator Wise filed a bill (SB 1830) very similar to that filed by Representative Nelson this year. Oddly, the bill never got a committee hearing. But this year’s bill – still a proposal for a “career technical high school diploma” – is a different thing altogether.
The bill’s sections on math and science graduation requirement look as if they were copied from the 2010 bill that raised graduation requirements, SB 4, with the word “applied” inserted in front of the title of every math and science course.
From the section of SB 756 on math:
In addition to the Algebra I and geometry credit requirements, one of the four credits in mathematics must be an applied Algebra II or a series of courses equivalent to applied Algebra II as approved by the State Board of Education. The applied Algebra II course shall be aligned with the career or technical course of study in which the student is enrolled. To the extent possible, the applied Algebra II course must be incorporated into the career or technical courses in which the student is enrolled.
And from the science section:
Beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2013-2014 school year, one of the three credits must be Biology I or a series of courses equivalent to Biology I as approved by the State Board of Education, one credit must be applied chemistry or applied physics or a series of courses equivalent to applied chemistry or applied physics as approved by the State Board of Education, and one credit must be an equally rigorous course in an applied science, as determined by the State Board of Education. The applied courses shall be aligned with the career or technical course of study in which the student is enrolled. To the extent possible, the applied courses must be incorporated into the career or technical courses in which the student is enrolled.
Senator Wise is proposing that students meet high expectations for achievement in math and science in courses that make these subjects relevant to their career plans. How could one possibly object to that?
The only possible objection is that such legislation is not necessary. The FDOE has already demonstrated its willingness to be flexible on the “chemistry or physics” requirement by allowing the requirement to be satisfied by courses like “Principles of Technology.” But if Senator Wise’s bill would calm the continuing demands by school district officials that the new graduation requirements be dismantled, then I’m all for it.