Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Post in Which I Agree with Dick Black – “No” Vote on SB 185

As much as people may think that I take shots at Sen. Dick Black just because it’s so easy (and fun), there are times when he should be commended.  Here’s one.

Sen. Black along with Sen. Jill Vogel recently voted AGAINST SB 185, a bill that would remove science from the third grade Standards of Learning test.  Unfortunately, however, the bill passed the Senate on a 33-7 vote and is now off to the House Education committee of which Dels. Tag Greason and Tom Rust are members.

As anyone who has children in a Virginia public school can attest,  teachers teach to the SOLs.  If it ain’t tested for, they ain’t teaching it.  I’ve personally heard my own children’s teachers unapologetically state it  several times (with better English, however).  That means, then, that there’s no guarantee that science will be taught to our kids until 5th grade when the science module is on the SOLs.

It simply doesn’t make any sense.  At a time when American technological competitiveness is being challenged, Virginia can ill afford deferring teaching science to our children.

I’m still at a loss to determine who’s really behind the bill.  It certainly looks like a teachers’ union thing with the way the unions constantly oppose performance testing of any sort.  One less test to measure them by would be consistent with that strategy.  At any rate, thank you Sens. Black and Vogel for opposing it.

A list of supporting studies, prepared by a fellow parent, are below the fold.

1.   Studies have shown that when subjects are not covered on standardized tests, teachers will not teach the subjects. This could mean that Virginia students would not have any social studies until 4th grade and science until 5th grade.
  • The National Science Teachers Association states:

NSTA Position Statement: Assessment Rationale

NSTA values a scientifically literate citizenry. Science assessments are necessary tools for managing and evaluating efforts to ensure all students receive the science education necessary to prepare them for participation in our nation’s decision-making processes and lifelong learning of science in a technology-rich workplace.
2.  Local funding is tied to assessment
  • Unless, there is an hourly mandate added to the bill by the Virginia House of Delegates, counties can revoke funding for elementary science curriculum and materials for grades K-4 since the subject will not be covered on an SOL test before 5thgrade
3.  83% of students in third grade are reading at or above grade level. The state’s own  Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission reports that “Pass rates on third grade reading SOLs have increased substantially, but a 95% statewide pass rate may not be feasible”
  • What will the majority of the students who are reading at or above grade level work on during instructional time?
  • Why take science away if the students are passing the current 3rd grade SOL?

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