Earth Science in Texas
by Chris Comer
Director of Science
Texas Education Agency
In reference to the September 2001 Geotimes Magazine editorial regarding "(No) Earth Science in Texas" and similar concerns in letters received by the State Board of Education, the comment that "the July State Board of Education vote not to make earth science a graduation requirement" most likely refers to the July 2000 vote by the State Board of Education amending the Minimum Program limit the courses which may be used to fulfill science requirements. The SBOE amendment 19 TAC Chapter 74 which states that the Minimum Graduation Requirements in science are: Beginning Sept 1, 2001--Entering 9th graders graduating under The Minimum Graduation Requirements must have 2 credits in science including at least: Biology and Integrated Physics and Chemistry, however, a students may also complete both Chemistry and Physics as substitutes for IPC and the academic elective.
Prior to this vote students could complete their minimum program by taking one credit in Biology, Chemistry or Physics and the second credit could be any SBOE approved science course including Earth science courses such as Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography (GMO), Environmental Systems, Aquatic Science, and Astronomy.
It is important to note the requirements for The Recommended Graduation High School Program&emdash;Students must complete 3 credits in science including: One credit must be a Biology credit (Biology, AP Biology, and International Baccalaureate Biology) Students must choose the remaining two credits from the following areas. Not more than one credit may be chosen from each of the areas to satisfy this requirement: Students on the Recommended High School Program are encouraged to take courses in Biology, Chemistry and Physics to complete the science requirements.A: Integrated Physics and Chemistry
B: Chemistry, AP Chemistry, or IB Chemistry; and
C: Physics, Principles of Technology I, AP Physics or IB Physics
The graduation requirements were revised to align with the new Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) which was mandated by the 76th Legislature in Senate Bill 103
At a recent meeting of the science education specialists for the Education Service Centers in Houston, I shared the status of geology and earth science courses in the curricula:
- The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) have a strong strand of Earth science concepts K-8.
- The new Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) given at the 5th grade will ensure that elementary students have instruction in Earth sciences.
- The new GLOBE schools training will connect students to earth science concepts at elementary, middle and high school levels.
- The TAKS given at 10th grade and at exit level grade 11 will include Earth science concepts both within the process skills (Objective 1&emdash;The Nature of Science) and where earth science concepts naturally integrate with Biology and IPC.
- Elective science courses available include strong Earth Science courses: Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography (GMO), Aquatic Science, Astronomy and Environmental Systems and AP Environmental Science
- TEA sponsored professional development in Bridging to TAKS, TEXTEAMS, and Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science Teaching and the Comprehensive Assessment Testing in Science (CATS) Project emphasize training for earth science concepts.
- We are stressing the need for a fourth year of science for all Texas students. This fourth year should include an Earth science.
- Students who are college bound should consider the AP Environmental Science course.
- Students who will need acceleration for the TAKS test should consider our strong earth science elective courses as a venue for further instruction in science.