Sunday, May 10, 2009

Get Involved: Secondary Level Earth Science Classes and the University of California

From Wendy Van Norden, director of the Far West Section of the National Earth Science Teacher Association (our sister organization for teaching the earth sciences):

"a letter writing campaign (has been) initiated by Eldridge Moores, of University of California, Davis, who has been working tirelessly to get the BOARS committee of the University of California to include the Earth Sciences as part of the UC “d” requirements for admission to UC schools. Very few of us have obtained “d” status for our high school earth science classes, and as you probably know, school administrators strongly discourage teachers from offering a science class to college prep students if it doesn’t meet the “d” requirement. We need to let the academic council of UC hear our concern about the future of earth science education in California. Without the “d” status, high school earth science courses are doomed to be the “rocks for jocks” courses if they are offered at all. Please take a look at the sample letter and talking points for ideas and send out some emails or letters. This is a critical time in the decision process and your letters can make a difference. Also, please forward this email to anyone who may be interested in helping this important cause.

Thank you so much."

Please get involved! This has been a point of frustration for earth science teachers in the region for years, and this inequality needs to change. Here are the main contacts and talking points for your letters:


Academic Council:

Chair: Professor Mary Croughan, 1111 Franklin St., 12th Fl., University of California, Oakland CA 95607-5200. Email

Vice Chair: Professor Henry C. Powell, 1111 Franklin St., 12th Fl., University of California, Oakland CA 95607-5200. Email

Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS)

Chair: Professor Sylvia Hurtado, Department of Education, 3005 Moore Hall, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521. Email

Vice Chair: Professor William Jacob, Department of Mathematics, South Hall 6607, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106. Email

SUGGESTED "WRITING" POINTS (in no particular order):

· We teachers are concerned, because we want to be able to prepare our students for the environmental challenges that they will face in this century.
· We high school teachers think that teaching of Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences (EESS) is very important. We need you to take the step of specifying EESS in the "d" Laboratory Science requirement.
· The National Research Council National Standards were published in 1996, specifying Earth and Space Sciences as one of the three fields to be covered in K-12 education, particularly in 9-12 education.
· We are astonished that the UC System has not modified its "d" laboratory science requirement before now in order to conform to the national standards.
· Education in the EESS is essential for all citizens in a democracy, in order for them to be knowledgeable citizens in this century, in which the issues of climate change, water, and energy will be paramount. All these issues deeply involve the Earth Sciences.
· There are excellent course preparation materials of college-prep level in this area (give examples).
· These curricula use accessible subject matter that allows students to learn basic concepts upon which they may build difficult ideas, and to develop analytic and synthetic integrative thinking.
· Specific UC requirements determine in large part high school curricula. Thus in order for high schools to be able to justify offering these courses, they need to by specified in UC's "d" requirement.
· There are national and state examinations in EESS (e.g. California STAR exams).
· Thus we request that the UC system modernize its "d" laboratory science requirement to include the words "Earth, environmental, and space sciences".

A sample letter follows:

Dear ( )

I write as a professional geologist (or other discipline) concerned about the coverage of Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences (EESS) in California high school curricula. I believe that the University of California needs to recognize the Earth Sciences as an important part of the education of students entering the colleges and universities of the state. As the National Earth Science Literacy Initiative states,

From the perspective of future civilizations, the 21st century will be defined by three things: climate change, water availability, and energy resources. The fate of humanity will rest on how these three—all deeply rooted in the Earth Sciences--are handled in the next century.

If we are to prepare our high school students for challenges of this century, we need to encourage our California high schools to offer classes in the Earth Sciences.
  1. Currently, the California State Board of Education standards for high school science education includes the Earth Sciences, and Earth Science knowledge is tested on Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test on Earth Science,
  2. However, the University of California does not include the subject for fulfillment of the “d” requirement for university admission. Students, have to petition the University for permission to use EESS classes to meet the “d” requirement.
  3. In the 2004 school year, only 13% of California Grade 9 students took Earth Science (American Geological Institute). Only 20% of recent UC applicants, admits, and enrollees, received "d" credit for EESS, in contrast to 96% for biology, 93% chemistry, and 60% physics (BOARS; Minutes of March 6, 2009).
  4. There are excellent curricula available for EESS classes that meet the general UC requirements for laboratory sciences. The curricula use accessible subject matter that provide tangible problems appropriate for teaching the scientific method and evidence-based reasoning, and develops analytic and synthetic integrative thinking in students.

Therefore, we need the Academic Senate to change the UC "d" requirement to add the words "Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences" to the list of specified courses (biology, chemistry, and physics) that would satisfy the requirement. In this way, UC will signal to high schools that they value these courses, and thus encourage the institution of high quality Earth, Environmental, and Space Sciences.

I understand that the UC Academic Council is preparing a document on this issue for circulation to the various Campus Divisions for comment. I urge you to contact your Campus Academic Senate representatives when this issue comes before the Campus committees and to support the needed change in the wording of the "d" requirement.


No comments:

Post a Comment