All ninth-graders may not have to take science after all.
The State Board of Education next month might yank a state core curriculum rule that all freshmen must enroll in science. The rule is to take effect this fall.A proposed rule change, which would allow students to take two science credits any time in their high school careers, follows opposition from teachers and parents fearing the rule would overload student schedules and limit electives opportunities.
"In this community, when there is a choice of one (elective class), by and large the choice is LDS seminary class," said Robert Curry, a Highland High music teacher. "But in providing more choice for students, fine arts programs can remain stable."
Highland freshmen have two credits for electives after enrolling in required courses. The rule allows for one. The school's PTA has spoken against the rule.
The rule is implied in legislation, which Sen. Craig Taylor, R-Kaysville, agreed to withdraw after State Superintendent of Public Instruction Scott Bean gave his word that the rule will be changed.
"The superintendent's position is that (science) can be taught in any grade" in high school, said Doug Bates, director of school law and legislation for the State Office of Education. "The mandatory language (in the core curriculum) is going to be removed."
The bill, co-sponsored by Senate President Lane Beattie, R-West Bountiful, had sought to allow the state school board only to recommend at what grade levels instruction might be given.
"Eliminating one of the elective courses in ninth grade (impacts) families of kids involved in music, foreign language, technology, keyboarding and art," Taylor said Monday.
But some school districts currently require a freshman science class and 77 percent of Utah ninth-graders take science, said Brett Moulding, state science specialist. The rule, approved in 1995 as part of the state science core curriculum, aims to increase "literacy for science," he said.
Some school districts applauded the requirement in a state school board committee meeting in recent weeks. The Earth systems class accompanying the requirement is tailored for 14- and 15-year-olds, said Cheryl Ferrin, state school board member.
"It really encourages the kids to take more science. It peaks their interest and gives them a good overall view of science," Ferrin said. "But it's hard to make requirements - we want districts to have flexibility."
While not effective until next fall, some Davis schools, such as North Layton and Kaysville junior high schools, have forged ahead with the requirement. Others schools needed science room re-mod-eling to make way for labs required by the new Earth systems class, said Richard Marsden, president of the Music Education Association and music supervisor for Davis School District.
Fully implementing the rule would cost Davis district $2 million, Taylor said.
Jerry Peterson, associate superintendent at the State Office of Education, last week distributed a memo informing districts of the proposed change, just in time for high school reg-is-tra-tion.
If approved by the state school board, the rule would "strongly recommend that the Earth science course be taught in the ninth grade" and require students take two science credits in either Earth systems, biology, chemistry or phys-ics at any time during their high school career.
"There are numbers of people expressing concern. I think it's great the state office and State Board of Education is listening and acting in the best interest of students and parents," Marsden said.