After weeks of debate between Northwood staff, students and parents regarding Integrated Science (IS) 3, Northwood administration has reversed a recent policy change. Rising juniors can now take two discrete science courses as space is available, and IS3 will no longer be mandatory for current or incoming freshmen.
This changes information that was sent to students via email on May 10, which stated that juniors could not take two discrete science classes for the 2019-2020 school year unless they took IS3 or Honors IS3 as their second choice.
Northwood principal Leslie Roach had said previously that the department was no longer offering rising juniors the option to take two sciences due to lack of resources and teaching staff.
“What happens every year is that students sign up for courses and then we try to assign staffing based on the number of kids who have signed up,” Roach said. “But, like in all years, we have restrictions to that. We have an overall staffing number and sometimes there aren’t enough teachers where students have signed up for classes, which is often times why sophomores and juniors get taken out of certain AP classes.”
The decision received prompt backlash from current underclassmen and their parents, who claim that the IS3 class would not provide an adequate foundation for students who hope to pursue sciences in college and in their future careers.
“I was troubled by the inability to take two traditional science classes because I hope to pursue biomedical engineering, which requires a strong understanding of multiple science principles,” sophomore Victoria Nguyen said.
IS, which started at Northwood in 1999, aims to blend together the various discrete sciences of biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences to help students make connections across disciplines. IS3 is the third in a series meant to address the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which intend to expose students to all the science standards. By the end of junior year, students in IS will meet the same standards as students at other high schools.
“Northwood was founded upon the spirit of making connections across disciplines, like integrated science and the Humanities Core,” Science Department Head Mickey Dickson said. “We believe this spirit represents how the world operates and that the mode of siloed thinking actually hinders the student’s potential in a global economy.”
In response to the backlash, a meeting was held on May 16 to answer questions, clarify misconceptions and suggest alternative pathways for affected students. While administrators hoped to allay concerns regarding students’ college admissions prospects, parents were more interested in discussing the proposed IS3 course and their dissatisfaction with IS curriculum to date.
“I was disappointed with the way the meeting was handled,” Northwood parent Melinda Liu said. “It felt like the school already made its decision and would not give us any information.”
The meeting, attended by over 100 parents, including middle school parents, and students, did not assuage frustrations. Some parents noted they were considering sending their younger students to other IUSD high schools who follow the discrete sciences model.
On May 23, an email sent from Roach to the Northwood community altered the previous policy by stating that “While IS3 and HIS3 are the recommended science courses for juniors, we will not be requiring the courses for current students or incoming freshmen.”
Northwood will now accommodate as many students as possible into two discrete sciences, including two AP science classes, based on availability. A waitlist will be maintained over the summer for any new spaces that become available.
Additional information will be sent out over the next few weeks regarding the integrated science program at Northwood. Students and parents should look out for individual course lists and information on how to be added to waitlists.