Christine McDougal

Christine McDougal, left, director of curriculum and assessment for Kyrene School District, and curriculum administrator Sheryl Houston outlined science tex spending for the Governing Board.

Science in Kyrene School District is going to get expensive.

Or, as Governing Board President Michael Myrick said at last week’s board meeting, “It’s shockingly expensive.”

The remarks came after a presentation on the books and other materials Kyrene has to buy over the next two years to comply with the state’s new standards for teaching science and in advance of a new science test that middle school students will start taking in the 2021-22 school year.

The cost: $4 million over two years.

That includes about $1.4 million to roll out the new materials to sixth graders this school year and another $2.6 million next year to expand the new science instruction to seventh and eighth grades.

The money comes from an already approved capital bond issue and covers both books and digital material, lab equipment and access to online portals.

 There’s also some additional cost for science kits that students use up and must be replaced for the following year’s classes.

Christine McDougal, Kyrene director of curriculum and assessment, and curriculum administrator Sheryl Houston outlined the basics of the expenditure.

At one point Myrick pulled out his calculator, saying, “$4 million divided by approximately 7,000 middle school students, roughly.”

“That’s $572 a kid over six years or $95 a year per child,” he said. “Plus, with the consumables, that’s another eight bucks. So, we’re at $102 roughly a kid per year for the next six years.”

The Arizona science standards were adopted in October 2018 and “are organized in a three-dimensional structure as all components are reflected in each standard,” Houston explained.

Those components are “core ideas, cross-cutting concepts and science and engineering practices.”

Core ideas are about physical life, earth and science and are taught in all grades through high school.

The “cross-cutting concepts” help students deepen their understanding of the core ideas and allow for connections to other disciplines so students can “make sense of phenomena,” Houston said.

“Science and engineering practices are a robust process” cover “how scientists investigate and build models and theories of the natural world and how engineers design and build systems,” she explained. 

A middle school science adoption committee has already reviewed materials, although the district will only buy the sixth-grade books this year and start using them in the 2020-21 school year.

The committee has narrowed down the choices to three texts.

A 60-day review period is now open for parents and anyone else to review those books, although they will see only samples of each. They can be viewed at Kyrene’s district office on the northwest corner of Kyrene and Warner roads.

When board member Michelle Fahy asked how will the final selection be made, Houston said principals and middle school teachers and a few other faculty members will be ranking their preferences.

“There is a combination of print and electronic” materials, Houston said. “There is also an emphasis on hands-on learning opportunities. So, they were able to review kits as well.”

Lessons also are taught through online portals.

Board member John King and Houston provoked a little laughter during the presentation when he asked her how many members of the public actually show up to review such materials.

“One,” Houston said meekly.

“You can say it a little louder,” King said jokingly.

“It’s really disappointing,” King said, referring to last year’s public response when Kyrene made new math and social studies books available for public inspection.

 “One public comment on social studies last year, none on math,” he said.

Fahy noted, “Part of the change in the science standards isn’t just the order of things, but more conceptually how we look at science and how we look at the scientific method and so on. And so, it’s more focused on discovery learning. It’s not so much a list of learning these vocabulary words – much like social studies used to be and is now changed.”

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