Laboratory science ("d")
Two units (equivalent to two years or four semesters) of laboratory science are required (three units are strongly recommended), providing fundamental knowledge in two of the following disciplines:
Goals of the requirement
The overarching goal of the subject requirement in laboratory science is to ensure that entering college freshmen are adequately prepared to undertake university-level study in any scientific or science-related discipline. The term “laboratory” is intended to signify an empirical basis of the subject matter, as well as inclusion of a substantial experimental and/or observational activity in the course design. The requirement emphasizes biology/life sciences, chemistry and physics because these subjects are preparatory to university-level study in all science-based disciplines. However, coverage of these foundational subjects in suitable breadth and depth can potentially be found in a wide range of science courses, including those with an interdisciplinary, engineering or a career technical education focus, provided the courses conform to the criteria described in the Course Criteria & Guidance section below.
All courses approved in the laboratory science subject area should be designed with the explicit intention of developing and encouraging scientific habits of mind important for university-level studies, and aligned with the eight practices of science and engineering identified by the National Research Council Framework and detailed within the Next Generation Science Standards:
questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering). Students should develop a perception of science or engineering as a way
of understanding the world around them, not as a collection of theories and
definitions to be memorized.
and using models. Students should understand that scientific models are useful to
represent phenomena in the physical world, and should routinely develop or use
multiple representations and models to solve scientific problems and to communicate
science concepts. They should appreciate that models and theories are valuable
only when rigorously tested against observation.
and carrying out investigations. Students should emerge from high school embracing an ease in using their
scientific knowledge to perceive patterns and regularity, make predictions, and
test those predictions against evidence and reason.
and interpreting data. This includes developing and maintaining openness to using technological
tools appropriately, including graphing calculators and computers, in gathering
and analyzing data. Students should be aware of the limitations of these tools,
and should be capable of effectively using them while making sound judgments
about when such tools are and are not useful.
mathematics and computational thinking. In particular, students should recognize that measurements and
observations are subject to variability and error, and that these must be
accounted for in a quantitative way when assessing the relationship between
observation and theory.
explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering). Students should recognize that abstraction and generalization are
important sources of the power of science.
in argument from evidence. Students should understand that assertions require justification based
on evidence and logic, and should develop an ability to supply appropriate
justifications for their assertions. They should habitually ask “Why?” and “How
do I know?”
- Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Student should be able to read a variety of domain-specific scientific and technical texts and to write using the language conventions of scientific discourse, including but not limited to laboratory reports. Useful guidelines for promoting scientific literacy can be found in the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects [PDF].
Course criteria & guidance
Beginning with the 2015-16 submission period, the following course criteria are effective for courses seeking approval in the laboratory science ("d") subject area:
Regardless of the scientific subject, all courses approved for the "d" subject area are expected to satisfy these criteria:
- Courses will be consistent with and illustrate the goals described
above. Courses that integrate these eight practices of science and engineering
with course content will be taking a substantial step toward achieving these goals.
- Courses will provide rigorous, in-depth treatments of the conceptual
foundations of the scientific subject studied based on the appropriate underlying
biological, chemical and physical principles.
- Courses will afford students opportunities to participate in all phases
of the scientific process, including formulation of well-posed scientific
questions and hypotheses, design of experiments and/or data collection strategies,
analysis of data, and drawing of conclusions. They will also require students
to discuss scientific ideas with other students, differentiate observations
from interpretations, engage in critical thinking and write clearly and
coherently on scientific topics.
- Courses will specify, at a minimum, elementary algebra as a prerequisite
or co-requisite, and will employ quantitative reasoning and methods wherever
- Courses will include teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities
that are directly related to, and support, the other class work, and that involve
inquiry, observation, analysis and write-up. These hands-on inquiry-based activities
will constitute a significant portion of the instruction and account for at
least 20 percent of class time. Hands-on laboratory activities must explicitly
address safe and ethical practices with respect to experimenters, society and
- Courses will be explicit about the formative and summative assessment
practices that will be used throughout to assess student development of deep
content understanding as well as mastery of scientific practices and skills.
Courses will include a variety of assessments to ensure the teacher is able to determine
that the course learning objectives have been met, as well as challenge
students to defend their ideas and conclusions and demonstrate higher-order
thinking skills. These measures could include, but are not limited to, multiple choice,
short answer, laboratory reports, essay, projects, poster presentations and videos.
- Courses will include culturally relevant topics and activities,
real-world problems and applications that are appropriate for the context of
the school community and the course content. The activities should be aimed at engaging
all students in science learning and understanding the role of science in their
- Courses will include the use of technology to increase access and
computer-based skills for students. This could include visualization programs that
provide scientific animations and 3-dimensional modeling; data collection and
analysis tools; graphing calculators and other tools for mathematical
representations; a variety of digital tools for encouraging multiple verbal and
visual representations of scientific phenomena; and computer coding exercises. Courses
that give students the opportunities to experience learning in evidence-based,
non-traditional ways such as a flipped classroom are encouraged.
- The content for biology/life sciences, chemistry and physics courses in grades 9 through 12 will generally be drawn from the Science Content Standards for California Public Schools [PDF], the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects [PDF]. For success in college, secondary science teachers should help students learn to assimilate the major ideas and principles that encompass the standards rather than explore the breadth of all the standards. Equally important to the topics covered, or to the skills directly used in class, are the more general abilities and attitudes gained through the effort of mastering the course content. These general abilities and attitudes are outlined in the goals section above.
Tools & resources
Other options for satisfying the “d” subject requirement
UC-transferable college courses or satisfactory scores on SAT Subject, AP or IB exams can also be used to fulfill the laboratory science subject requirement.