Wednesday, October 15, 2014
How High Schools Are Shortchanging Students In Science Education.
One of the more unfortunate aspects of the DOE budgeting process is the reduction of a quality Science education as the high schools reduce their Science departments to the bone. This results in hurting student academic performance and puts the NYC high schools students at a competitive disadvantage with other New York State schools. The DOE funding program called "fair student funding" (fsf) inadequately funds the schools,who, in turn, eliminate popular electives, reduce Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and cut extracurricular activities, the very programs that make for a successful school. In addition, many teachers are encouraged to teach a "sixth period" and suffer burnout by the end of the school year as schools try to keep their staff salaries down.
In the New York City high schools principals are hamstrung with the unfair fsf fiasco that find many schools underfunded by receiving only 85% of what the formula should allow for. Moreover, since 2008, the average school budget has been reduced by 14% and the disappointing Chancellor shockingly froze it at 2013 levels rhis school year. Therefore, principals have cut their expenses any way they can and that includes staff.
One of the ways that high schools have cut payroll is to reduce the amount of Science teachers needed at their school. In far too many schools the principal has replaced the New York State recommended 5-1 program to a 4-1 program. This means that students will have one less instructional day as the laboratory requirement will replace the instructional day once a week for Regents Science subjects. This means that the students are receiving a month's less of instruction and the Regents results show a significant drop off of Regents passing grades. Moreover, many schools encourage non-certified Science teachers to teach , especially when it comes to Earth Science and that also results in a lower Regents passing percentage. When you combine the three issues, many students who may have passed the Science Regents don't and fail to receive the coveted advanced Regents diploma that colleges look for.
Unfortunately, the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy extends to AP courses as well. Many schools either don't offer the classes or limit them to six periods weekly rather than the recommended ten classes as recommended by the College Board. The result of this shortsighted approach puts the students at a competitive disadvantage with the nation and few students achieve the grade of 3 or higher, the minimum necessary to receive college credit.
Finally, some high schools have inexplicably replaced Regents Earth Science with non-Regents courses such as Astronomy, Environmental Science, Forensics, and conceptional Physics. Making it virtually impossible for the students to get an advanced Regents diploma unless they take the much more difficult Regents Chemistry or Physics courses.
A prime example of the short-sighted approach is happening at Cardozo High School, once the shinning jewel of the NYC high schools that has dulled in the last few years. It was only a few years ago that Cardozo has a 34 person Science department. However, due to excessing, sixth period assignments, and reduction in courses, the Science department is down to 19, a 45% reduction in staff! AP courses are six periods weekly and many students don't get college credit/ Moreover, the school has one certified Earth Science teacher for a school of 4,000 students. Is it any wonder that two thirds of the students failed the Earth Science Regents last year? Of course that's better than at Bayside high school who excessed two Earth Science teachers and saw their passing percentage drop from 73% to 30% last year! Noe Chemistry is converted to a 4-1 course and I suspect the Chemistry Regents passing rate will drop accordingly.
How in the world can the DOE keep a straight face and claim that student academic achievement will improve when their very policies are putting students in a competitive disadvantage when it comes to all other schools in the State and Nation. No wonder NYC's "college and career readiness" scores are dismal. The disappointing Chancellor, Carmen Farina, needs to wake up from her dream world and face the reality of the consequences of the DOE's "education on the cheap" policy that's hurting the children.