University of California rejects Earth Science

The University of California eliminated the Earth Sciences from the “d” laboratory science requirements for enrollment in UC schools.
As a result, the teaching of Earth Science in California high schools has been significantly compromised. Schools have either dropped Earth Science from their high school curricula or have redesigned their courses to meet the needs of students who are not college-bound. There are fewer rigorous Earth Science courses available to California students and the Earth Science literacy of our citizens is on the decline.
This year concerned hundreds of Earth Science educators in California signed a petition requesting that the “d” requirement that presently states that students shall take” “two and preferably three courses from the following sciences: biology, chemistry, and physics ” be changed to the requirement of ”two and preferably three courses from the following sciences: biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth, environmental, and space sciences.”

Despite the support of hundreds of educators, the California Science Teachers Association, and the fact that California state standards include Earth and Space Sciences, the UC Academic committee voted unanimously to reject the petition.
Why would the University system of a geologically active state like California make such a decision? For years, the Earth Sciences were accepted by the UC system as a lab science. However, many schools made the 9th grade Earth Science class the dumping ground of the non-college bound students, while more capable students took a more rigorous course in biology, chemistry or physical science. Teachers must teach the students they are given, so they adjusted the rigor of the courses appropriately. It is not surprising that the UC system did not regard such watered-down courses as being inappropriate for college admission. Rather than attempt to distinguish a rigorous Earth Science course from a low-level course, the UC system chose to reject all Earth Science courses.

What can be done? We can create high level Earth Science courses. Courses designed to have the same level of rigor as an Advanced Placement course have been accepted both as a “d” level lab course and as an honors course. One such course, Honors Geology, taught as Harvard-Westlake School, has received both “d” lab and honors designation. It is a dual enrollment course for which students can earn 5 credit units It’s syllabus and a syllabus for Honors Earth Science Systems and suggestions for creating courses that may receive “d” lab status can be found at Honors Geology

There are other rigorous courses that would also qualify. If you teach such a course, or want to teach such a course, please contact:
Wendy Van Norden
Harvard-Westlake School
wvannorden@hw.com
818 487-6665


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