Roaring Fork District high schools could get new science requirements |

Roaring Fork District high schools could get new science requirements

Glenwood Springs High School biology teacher Justin Silcox helps sophomore Maya Elias during a mitosis lab experiment in the classroom.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Freshmen at Roaring Fork District high schools this fall may face stricter science requirements than previous classes.

The Roaring Fork School District Board of Education on Wednesday moved forward with a requirement that all students take classes in the four main science categories in order to graduate. The move tightens an area where administrators see the district lagging behind the rest of the state.

“At the moment, students can feel that they satisfied their graduation requirements and find themselves in a place where they’re not really prepared for their course of study, Lindsay Hentschel, secondary instructional facilitator for the school district, told the school board at its regular meeting Wednesday in Carbondale.

Hentschel said she knew of a student who was close to graduation taking mostly biology courses because she planned to seek a pre-medical degree. After an internship, she realized she would be underprepared without taking physics.

The current graduation standards require 30 credits of science, but “how those requirements are filled is vague,” according to a memo prepared by Hentschel.

The proposed requirements mandate that, as part of the 30 hours of science, students must have five credit hours each of physics, chemistry, biology and environmental science. At least 20 hours must be lab-based instruction.

“Our district was much more lax than any I had seen,” Superintendent Rob Stein said at the meeting. The district did a much more comprehensive overhaul of graduation requirements four years ago.

Each five-credit course is about equivalent to a semester long section, but students who take longer, more advanced courses – like advanced placement physics without lower-level introduction courses – would fulfill the requirement.

Another goal of the change is to encourage more diverse knowledge of sciences, especially for students who don’t consider themselves strong in the sciences.

“It’s really meant to help kids see themselves as scientists and to raise science literacy in all of the areas, so they have the foundational kinds of knowledge they would need for advanced courses,” Hentschel said.

The new graduation requirements are closer in line with the Colorado Commission’s Higher Education Admission Recommendations, the state’s guidelines for admission to four-year colleges in Colorado. The state recommendations include three years, or 30 credit hours, of natural or physical sciences, with 20 credit hours worth of lab-based work.

The school board will have a second and final reading of the proposed changes at the next meeting Jan. 23.

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