The William S. Hart Union High School District is expected to look at classroom support at Wednesday’s meeting of the Governing Board regarding the rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum, as well as an upcoming chemistry pilot that is predicted to commence this year.
To update the community on the continuing changes in the Santa Clarita Valley’s high school district, personnel have attempted to keep board members apprised of Hart’s new science curriculum for grades seven, eight and nine.
The assistant superintendent of educational services said the board feels good about the work they’re doing to strengthen science subjects around the district.
“The item on the board agenda is an update of the work we’ve been doing to shift science instruction in the district,” said Mike Kuhlman, assistant superintendent of educational services. The update is one step in a continuous process that will play out over the next couple of years, he added.
“We believe that in the world that our students are inheriting, they will need to have a STEM focus,” Kuhlman said. “Therefore, we are working to redesign the curriculum with the intent that every student in the Hart district has taken biology, chemistry and physics by the time they graduate.”
“In the past, some students would take biology, fewer would take chemistry and even less would take physics,” he said, referring to the three primary science subjects available at most of the 20 schools in the district.
“The idea in a nutshell behind the Next Generation Science Standards is ‘science for all,’” Kuhlman said.
The district has already taken steps to rewrite its biology course this past year. Members of the board have said they hope to have rewritten the chemistry course within the next two years, and, after, the physics courses.
The change, in an “oversimplified simplistic nutshell,” according to Kuhlman, is a shift from the old-school methodology in which a student was presented with terms and concepts to memorize, to one where students actively use science ideas in a lab-like setting.
“This shift allows the hands-on part to happen much earlier,” Kuhlman said, referring to the lab portion of learning where students explore how and why science phenomenon occur. “The board believes the process of science will become much more engaging to students because they will see more relevance to real-world applications.”
The district’s focus to overhaul its science program began when the new set of standards were adopted by California in 2013.
Kuhlman said the journey began with science leadership teams and state rollout workshops that discussed the new science standards. Many science teachers in the district attended conferences across the state and nation.
The district has heavily invested in science, Kuhlman explained. “We have a curriculum specialist, or a teacher who does the writing of the curriculum, and, now, we will have a science teacher on special assignment, who will help teachers with how they implement and teach the curriculum.”
“Part of rewriting the curriculum is making those key courses accessible to all students,” Kuhlman said. “There will still be Advanced Placement tracks, but we don’t believe the concepts available in biology, chemistry and physics are beyond all of our students.”