Academic Ends Policies – Science
[Draft 2 20000713]

[Notes to the Board: (1) Following the Board’s direction, and in accordance with the prior suggestions and support of the staff, an academic ends policy for science was drafted that follows very closely the one prepared for math. That draft exists in final form, and can be provided to the Board should it wish to see it.

(2) However, the staff now believes that, just as our initial writing ends policy raised issues not present with the ends policy for reading, so does the science ends policy raise issues more complex than those involved in math. Given those concerns, the draft is not even attached to this memo.

(3) Presumably the Board will want to pursue these issues in discussions with staff at the same time it first addresses the math ends policy. So only a couple of illustrations of the problems will be noted here:

(a) The standard agreed to was: “Students will, over time, construct, independently, increasingly complex scientific knowledge.” Apparently the tools for assessing the achievement of this standard are less readily available, and agreed upon, than those for math.

(b) There is, furthermore, little that can be called “science” as such, especially in the secondary school curriculum. There are, rather, such courses as biology, chemistry and physics.

(4) Thus, the Board is confronted with the following options:
(a) It can request, discuss, and begin the process of revising the science ends policy draft that has been prepared – knowing that substantial changes ultimately will be required in all likelihood. This involves the ratchet principle: start with something; it’s better than nothing, even though you know improvements are needed and will come. This option would, at least, put a draft on the table and move the process forward without committing either the Board or staff to its content. It would also avoid -- or provide an incentive for reducing -- the slippage that may otherwise extend adoption of a science ends policy into next spring.

(b) The State requires that the District do something, ultimately, about “science” in its Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP). Science is a lesser priority, but it’s there. Our staff is apparently scheduled to review its approach to assessment of students’ “science” sometime in late summer or early fall anyway. CSIP requirements need not drive the Board’s action. We hope for consistency between the District’s CSIP and the Board’s “ends.” But they certainly need not be identical, and the Board would expect the CSIP to address far more detail than the Board. But knowing this presents a couple of other options:

(1) The Board could opt to postpone even initial consideration of science ends until the staff has completed its review, whenever that may be.

(2) The Board could set its own timeline mileposts for the creation of a science ends policy as an incentive to speeding the staff review process.

(c) It can discuss the matter and conclude that, given the nature and extent of the problems associated with “science,” it will simply abandon any effort to make “science” (or the subjects which, together, are thought of as science) the subject of any ends policy at all.

(d) It may reach a similar conclusion on the grounds that (1) “less is more,” or (2) “reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic” were good enough for our grandparents and they’re good enough for us, or (3) they are, in fact, the Board’s top priority anyway, or (4) we want to take a year to see what the District can do with them before considering ends policies for additional academic subjects.

-- NJ, July 13, 2000]