Monday, January 5, 2009

Reduction in Science Labs or Lab Time

On the "Miffed" post science1 wrote:

science1 said...
The topic of labs in comprehensive high schools was discussed around the time of open house earlier this year. A neighbor later mentioned to me that some PPS buildings already do not offer conventional science labs due to cost. I believe it was Brashear where they are already eliminated or in the process of being eliminated. I will do my best to follow up and report back here. To better communicate on the topic I will no longer be Anonymous.
January 5, 2009 9:47 AM

17 comments:

Questioner said...

This is confusing, because a year ago we were told that the sci tech school could not be at Westinghouse because the fairly new labs were not big enough, and now it seems like we are being told that labs are not necessary at all.

science1 said...

Perhaps I am confused. At Open House when another parent brought it up I did not think about the "Lab Room" when listening to the discussion. I thought of the "LAB" as a day for it with lots of test tubes and bunsen burners and maybe some dissected guts laying around. I had the impression it was the materials that made the LAB DAY something too costly to maintain or EXPAND.

Questioner said...

That seems like a more likely explanation- that certain types of projects are being considered too expensive. Budgets are certainly being cut back. Hopefully however some lab work is still being done.

Anonymous said...

For the lab sciences of biology, chemistry and physics; many high schools are opting to reduce the overall class time devoted to these subjects. Instead of allotting 7 periods per week, two days are double periods, there are now 5 periods per week. This allows for the reduction of staff due to the fact that teachers can now have more classes and the displaced students can be jammed into a gym class. Although labs can still be done within a 5 period schedule, not all activities can be accomplished in the time frame of 42 minutes. It is interesting to note that the new curriculum being developed is written for a 7 period week. A nearly 30% reduction in class time is a lot to overcome, I don't see PSSA science scores increasing due to class time reduction.

The move to a five period week as far as I know is not a District mandate. It is simply an option left to some principals to balance their budgets.

Questioner said...

Anonymous, do you mean maney Pittsburgh public high schools are going to 5 periods, or many high schools in general?

PSSA's only measure language and math and that's part of the problem. No one is giving much consideration to science when judging how well principals or administrators are doing- the emphasis is on language or math. When the issue of science is raised, the response can be that a sci tech school was created.

In contrast, top private and suburban schools do not seem to be reducing time devoted to science, and many top universities are placing MORE emphasis on science instruction and facilities.

Kathy Fine said...

The reduction in science labs as well as the reduction in other areas (social studies, music, art) flies in the face of maintaining "rigor". We have got to make the district see that test scores will only go up so far before they plateau and that concentrating on scores is doing absolutley nothing to get students "Promise Ready". However, we will not see this plateau for several years and in the meantime, all of the things that make schools attractive to students and parents alike will be gone.

We need more people to start testifting at board meetings, write letters to the editors and email your board members voicing the need for well rounded education for our children and quality full service high schools to stem the decrease in PPS enrollment. Everyone on this blog, get 2-3 more people involved. Only large numbers of voices will make a difference. GRASS ROOTS RULE!

Anonymous said...

In response to Questioner, I can only attest to the PPS reducing science class time and not other schools in Allegheny County.

It is far more cost effective to staff and supply a gym rather than a science lab. I just don't see a benefit for our kids.

PPSparent said...

Just for the record, last spring was the first time it was given, but there are now 8th and 11th grade Science PSSA tests. Not sure about lower grades.

Questioner said...

That's interesting! We only hear about reading and math (in the Excellence for All goals, public announcements, A+ Schools reports, etc.). Are there any other subjects?

Anonymous said...

As PPSparent said, the science PSSA is fairly new. As a result of the PSSA, all 11th grade students now must take physics

science1 said...

Thanks PPSParent for the info on PSSA Science. I was actually on the pghboe site trying to get the grades that take the new PSSA Science test, I got humg up trying to access the assessment calendar. I will check the results next, but recall hearing some were disappointed in the numbers.

As the parent of a kid who learns everything better when it is within the context of a "science" lesson I am concerned about any decrease in the amount of "science" offered.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Hey, let's not knock they gym classes. They got cut when all the pool matrons got axed at the end of the 2007-08 school year. Those people, some 20-or so-, from many of the schools in the district helped with the PE classes -- especially with the washing of swimming suits and towels. Neither are provided to the kids now, as had been in the past.

Kids need to be healthy. A bit of fitness in the day and week goes a long way to making kids smarter and sharper in the school's academic periods too.

Same too with music and art.

Anonymous said...

Well put. So much emphasis on math, reading, science, etc, all important - yes. But, we are told so often this is the first generation that may not outlive their parents due to Type 2 diabetes and other obesity/health-related issues.
Yes, we want our students to be successful in the subjects mentioned above, but, if these students, once they become adults, are battling health issues, what good will their vast education be to them, or the rest of the community for that matter?
Significantly more focus needs to be placed in health and physical education.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the question is whether an increase in gym time should come at the expense of the lab time needed to develop scientific concepts. The cuts made to the pool matrons were for the same reasons they now want to cut labs, money. It is always a matter of priority. The physical education, the arts, science and music should all be valued parts of the whole education picture. I was not trying to devalue gym, but only the practice of placing 40-50 students in one gym class. A lab student still has physical education classes at least 3 times a week. Perhaps the District should consider other cost saving measures like the redundant central administrative positions and curriculum coaches.

science1 said...

I have to say I know gym classes are often over crowded and suspect the value is diminsihed by it. I am guessing this is not specific to PPS. Let's face it, if you are a parent active on this blog as a poster or you keep up with the pghboe website, you have an interest in the district. I can't advocate putting a focus on gym (to improve the value) when some buildings struggled and still do to get kids interested in special programs like the Healthy Class of 2010.

Mark Rauterkus said...

You know, if money was the only priority, we'd not have any public schools.

Education is not cheap.

In general, there is a place for Phy Ed, Music, Arts -- and it needs to be delivered in prudent yet efficient and effective ways.

Of course, the academic things are even more important, as a whole. But, it all needs to be blended.

Nothing new here -- just my $.02.

Furthermore, some of the extras can be delivered by non-PPS programs. I take my kids to violin lessons, beyond school, with my own money. That is our family investment -- with instruments, etc. Same too for swimming. So, there can be valued cooperation among the private sector and the public schools in offering more well rounded experiences for the students / citizens beyond the final period of the school day.

I'm all for that! There is where I'm with a keen personal focus. That is where we should begin to thrive -- as it has been, mostly, a great wasteland for far too long. Some stumbles are with PPS, some are much larger and impact WPIAL and our sports-culture in USA. Blame stretches wide.

It takes a village, I dare type.

science1 said...

I am a bit confused and alarmed by your last posting, Mark. I have tremendous admiration for you expecially when it comes to your fortitude in promoting your ideals. Was it necessary to include the examples you did on violin and swimming? Could "...with my own money" and "that is our family investment" sentiments have been a misstep? You must know that not every student in PPS has the advantages your kids have. What if only kids who were lucky enough to have been able to afford private lessons ever got to be professional musiciams? The world would be missing out on some beautiful sounds.