Changes coming to ninth grade science classes for incoming freshmen at Cherry Hill high schools

The freshman class at Cherry Hill High Schools East and West will take biology in the ninth grade beginning in September. This is a change from the physical science classes freshmen took in previous years.

Incoming freshman at Cherry Hill High Schools East and West will be taking a different science class then previous freshman took when they return to classes in September.

At last Tuesday night’s meeting, the Cherry Hill Board of Education approved a new science curriculum for grades six to 12 for the 2016–17 school year. The new curriculum includes a revised science path for high school students. Beginning with the upcoming school year’s freshman class, students will take biology in the ninth grade instead of the 10th grade.

In the past, freshmen would not take biology until at least 10th grade. For the ninth grade, students on regular or accelerated tracks took conceptual physical science, and students at the honors level were enrolled in quantitative physical science.

Earlier in the spring, some current Cherry Hill high school students spoke out against the changes, saying CPS and QPS classes were essential building blocks for them in their high school careers. No members of the public spoke out against the new curriculum at last Tuesday’s meeting.

According to a frequently asked questions document posted on the district’s website, one of the reasons biology was moved to freshman year was because fewer than half of the students in Cherry Hill high schools were completing four years of science. As a result, fewer than half of students were completing biology, chemistry and physics. Exposing more students to all three of those classes was a major goal for the district.

Board members said one rumor circulating around the community was the elimination of labs at the high school. That rumor was refuted prior to the board’s vote on the new curriculum. According to state graduation requirements, students must complete at least three years of lab science in their high school careers.

“We are not eliminating labs at the high school,” board member Steve Robbins said emphatically.

There will be an increased number of students taking biology next year as both freshmen and sophomores will be taking the courses. At an earlier spring meeting, Superintendent Joe Meloche said the district would have enough staff members to cover the additional sections of biology required for the upcoming year. Students who will be starting 10th, 11th and 12th grade in September will continue on the old science curriculum track through graduation.

The changes to the high school science classes in Cherry Hill Public Schools is coming at the same time the district is implementing the new Next Generation Science Standards, which the state Department of Education is mandating all school districts implement at the middle and high school levels for the 2016–17 school year. The new standards must also be implemented at the elementary school level for the 2017–18 school year.