Central to follow physics first sequence
Last updated 10/30/2019 at 3:35pm | View PDF
By the 2021-22 school year, all Hinsdale Central freshman will begin their science sequence by enrolling in physics or physics honors.
Hinsdale High School District 86 board members signaled their support Oct. 23 for a new district science curriculum.
The traditional progression — and the one currently in place at Central — is from biology to chemistry to physics. The new physics-chemistry-biology sequence, often referred to as “physics first,” has been in place at Hinsdale South since 2008.
“This is where we’ve landed and we’re very excited to present it tonight,” said Jule Gaubatz, science department chairman at Hinsdale South. “This sequence was chosen and designed — because it is a modified sequence — to maximize the amount of science that a child will see when you look at the core sciences. Within three years, students will be able to see earth sciences, physics, chemistry and biology.”
The 13-member science program committee looked at many science sequences and analyzed nine thoroughly before creating the new model, said Eric Martzolf, assistant principal of instruction at South. The program was refined after teachers offered their feedback and then revised again after it was presented to a select group of students and teachers.
In addition to exposing students to the four core sciences, the sequence also presents subjects in a logical order.
“We wanted to make sure that as students progress from freshman to sophomore to junior year, teachers were able to build, and so what they learned in physics they could then build upon in chemistry and they could then build upon in biology,” Gaubatz said.
Physics and chemistry will be offered at regular and honors levels to freshmen and sophomores and will include some earth sciences. Juniors will choose from regular or advanced placement biology.
In addition to biology, six other AP classes will be offered: physics C, physics C-M, chemistry, environmental science, research and seminar. AP classes can be taken sophomore or junior year — concurrently with chemistry or biology — or senior year. Two “capstone” courses, earth science, and anatomy and physiology, will be available to juniors and seniors.
“The committee really wanted to focus on the idea of AP classes,” Gaubatz said. “We wanted to make sure our sequence leads students into the rigor and to the career- and college-readiness represented by AP exams.”
Julie May, science department chair at Hinsdale Central, said the perception has existed at the school that students need tutors in order to pass honors science classes. Educators hope the new sequence will change that perception by being more accessible and hands-on.
“Accessible sounds like we’re making it too easy or we’re dumbing it down,” she said, adding that is not the case. “The curriculum isn’t fully developed, but one of the things we want to make sure of is that our kids are fully prepared to take a later AP course.”
Parents who spoke about the change during public comment at the beginning of the meeting said they worried about making this change at the same time that general level science classes will be eliminated. Gaubatz said South uses teacher “interventionists” to work with students in science classes who need help.
Central already has eliminated general level classes in the social studies and English departments, Principal Bill Walsh said.
“The model is already at Central in the other core departments,” he said. “It’s a matter of bringing that model to science.”
In response to a question from board President Nancy Pollak, Walsh said the traditional sequence has worked at Central, but with a strategic plan goal to align curriculums at the two schools, this is the time to change.
“I have every expectation we will continue that success moving forward,” he said.
Committee member Carol Baker, assistant superintendent for academics in District 86, was one of the 41 educators from around the country to develop the Next Generation Science Standards released in 2013. “We’re only showing you a brief amount of the work that has been done, but I think it’s fair to say that we have looked at what is best for our students here moving forward, assured that they will still be prepared to go on and take whatever courses they would like in college,” Baker said.
During the roll-out in 2020-21, freshmen will be able to choose between the traditional sequence and the new sequence.
All six board members in attendance at the meeting supported the change.
“You’ve got unanimous support,” Pollak told committee members. “Make it work.”