[KACT] Fwd: Physical Science, Qualified Admissions, and KS Board of Reagents

  • From: "Kelly Deters" <kellymdeters@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: KACT <kact@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 31 Mar 2007 15:47:49 -0600

Finally...college faculty are asking for our input on the Regents/State
assessment dilemma!  Please read his message at the bottom and read my
response based on the conversations I've had with other teachers.  If you
have something else to add, or if you agree with the summary I've provided,
let us know and we'll forward the group feelings to him!  (also, feel free
to get discussions going on other listservs you may be apart of as well to
get a wide range of people--kabt, kats, etc.)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Kelly Deters <kellymdeters@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mar 31, 2007 3:45 PM
Subject: Re: Physical Science, Qualified Admissions, and KS Board of
To: "EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx" <EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx>

First of all..thank you for asking the high school teachers!  Many teachers
I've talked to the last few years have been very frustrated by this and
didn't have any clue how we could help the situation!

I will definitely forward this on to the KACT listserv and I'm sure get a
flood of responses as this is something we talk about regularly!

I think our main concern is that the KS Assessment (which begins counting
for accreditation this next year) is a physical science test (there's also
biology on the test, but all students take biology, so it's not an issue).
The best way to prepare for such a test would be a physical science course,
however physical science doesn't meet Regents requirements.  Many of our
students do not take physics, so they would NOT be prepared for the state
assessment if they took a series such as Earth/Space, Bio, Chem to satisfy
Regents requirements.  So if students take physical science to prepare them
for the assessment, then they end up having to take a total of 4 sciences in
HS to meet regents requirements (since physical science doesn't count)--this
is upping the graduation requirement for many students!  Many feel the best
prep for the assessment is physical science in the 9th grade year and then
biology in the 10th grade year and then take the assessment after 10th
grade--students can then go on to take chem and/or physics and advanced

So we're caught between a rock and a hard place...the state says we need to
teach physical science (by way of putting it on the assessment), yet Regents
says it doesn't count.  We have to meet both sets of qualifications for our
students--they must be prepared for the assessment, yet they must meet
Regents qualified admissions.  The cry that I've heard echoed from many a
high school teacher on this subject is for the state and Regents to get
together and be consistent--don't have one group saying we need something
while the other groups says we can't use it as a course.  I think there
probably are schools who feel strongly about teaching a physical science
course for the course itself, but I think many more of them feel strongly
about it because that's how their going to prepare their students for the

In the meantime, many schools have taken to finding loopholes in the
system.  For example, on school teaches Earth/Space science, but they do so
from a "physical science perspective"--that way they satisfy Regents, yet
it's really more of a physical science course than an Earth/Space course
(although there is some Earth/Space content in the course), therefore they
prepare students for the assessment.

I think when you start talking about insuring that things aren't watered
down and the rigor is still there...that's a big can of worms!  I've taught
in 4 schools in Kansas and each one has the same course titles, but very
different levels of rigor.  Many teachers wonder why Earth/Space is a
Regents course when in many schools it's an "easier" course, just as
physical science is in many schools.  I'm not saying Earth/Space can't be
rigorous and college-prep...I'm sure it is in some schools.  But I doubt
that you have more prepared students by allowing them to take Earth/Space as
a regents course and not allowing physical science--both courses CAN be
taught at a higher level...but many are not--many of both of these courses
are taught at lower levels.

As I said, I will pass this along to KACT and I'm quite sure we'll get lots
of responses (the subject of how to organize our courses to meet both sets
of requirements is a common discussion among our members), but I really
believe the main problem most teachers have is the battle between the two
organizations--one says we need to teach physical science to pass the
assessment, yet the other says that course doesn't count.  We just want one
set of agreed upon requirements and we'll find a way to educate students
best under those requirements!


On 3/31/07, EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx <EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx> wrote:

Brad and Kelly-

The question of whether "physical science" courses should be accepted as
part of the pre-college curriculum for qualified admissions at Reagents
schools is a topic of discussion between the KBOR and the Reagents
institutions these days.  It appears to have risen well above the level of

routine discussion.  Our provost is asking for the opinion of science
faculty on what we think so that he can back up any comments he makes on
this issue with statements from his science faculty.  The prevalent
attitude amongst many science faculty seems to be that these courses
weren't considered as suitable college prep courses in 1995 when the
qualified admissions system was first developed and there isn't any reason

to change the policy now.

I have my own thoughts and biases on this issue.  However, I'd like to get
the perspective of some high school teachers who care deeply about science
education.  In my own experience, college faculty don't always have a good

insight into what is going on in the high schools.   I seem to recall that
this topic came up in some of the discussion at the Sept 2006 KACT
conference that I attended.  However, because it was an issue that didn't
directly impact me, I didn't take any notes and don't remember very many
the details.  I'd find it helpful in thinking about this issue if you
give me a brief response to the following questions.

1.  Basically, what is the argument to be made for accepting physical
science for qualified admissions?  Why are some high schools so adamant
about this issue?

2.  The concern of many college faculty is that accepting physical science

courses will just be watering down the requirements, reducing the rigor of
college prep curriculum, and giving high schools an easy out instead of
beefing up their science curriculum.  Do you agree with this assessment?

3.  My frame of reference is my Kansas high school experience in the
mid-80s when physical science was taken by all the kids who were never
going to take any more science or go on to college and was not taught at a

very high level.  Are there more rigorous versions of "physical science"
courses being offered these days?  If so, is there any good way to
distinguish the wheat from the chaff?

Thanks in advance for any responses you can provide!
Eddie Olmstead


Dr. Eddie Gene Olmstead          Chemistry Department
EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx                   Fort Hays State University
785-628-4507 (Phone)                 600 Park Street
785-628-4088 (Fax)                      Hays, KS  67601

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