Issaquah School District high schoolers get new chemistry curriculum

July 15, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

NEW — 1 p.m. July 15, 2010

Issaquah School District high schoolers will be greeted in their science laboratories this fall by a new chemistry book.

Issaquah School Board members unanimously voted to adopt the textbook Chemistry 2008, by Prentice Hall, at their meeting Wednesday night.

The new curriculum costs about $120,000, and was paid for with money donated to the school district from the Issaquah Schools Foundation.

The curriculum replaces one the district has been using for more than14 years. While the science of chemistry hasn’t changed in that time, the best methods for teaching it have, district spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said.

The new books are more hands-on, she said, with more inquiry, deep thinking problems and new laboratory experiments for students to do.

Prior to school board members’ vote, a teacher-review committee vetted the curriculum — against nine others — for its connection to district, state and national learning goals. Teachers also tested the materials in their classrooms during laboratory experiments in high school chemistry courses.

The Prentice Hall book scored best in seven learning evaluation categories among teachers and students, according to a presentation created by the committee.

The adoption of the new chemistry curriculum went markedly smoother than the adoption of the new high school math curriculum this spring.

That adoption took nearly two years to complete because of controversy surrounding the selected text, Key Curriculum Press’ Discovering Mathematics algebra and geometry books, which uses a combination of investigation and traditional practice drills to teach math.

Outspoken parents, residents and students formed Save Math In Issaquah to rally against it in favor of selecting another text, Holt Mathematics, saying it taught math in a more traditional way.

But school board members voted 4-1 to adopt Discovering Mathematics texts March 24.

While Save Math In Issaquah officials threatened litigation against the district, the April 21 deadline to file a suit wasn’t met. To date, no other lawsuits have been filed.

What do school board members do during the summer?

Like the Issaquah School District’s administrative employees and students, summer means a break from the business of running the school district for school board members.

Instead of having regular school board meetings in July, the board typically only meets once to approve items on the consent agenda.

Items on the consent agenda include curricula adoptions that have been discussed previously, employee resignations or retirements, donations or gifts to the district and construction change orders.

By approving the consent agenda, school board officials ensure important business moves forward.

School board members also spend summer months attending conferences, keeping track of political issues, meet for a retreat and partake in a book study with Superintendent Steve Rasmussen.

The school board resumes normal meetings at 7 p.m. Aug. 8 and 23 in the district administrative offices, 565 N.W. Holly St. Learn more about the board here.

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