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

  • From: "Kelly Deters" <kellymdeters@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx" <EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx>, KACT <kact@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007 08:08:37 -0500

Many teachers have also wondered why we can't accomplish both of the goals
you list at the same time!  It reminds me of the song "Why Can't We Be

I think you'll probably have a hard time trying to get "physical science"
out of the state standards because that's how the National Science Education
Standards (NSES) are formatted.  They did it on purpose to allow people to
teach in multiple formats rather than having to teach each subject
individual (for example, many schools teach interdisciplinary or integrated
science across several years).  Our state standards are patterned after the
NSES and I doubt there'd be much give in that.

I think it is possible, however, to teach physical science at a "beefier"
level that would please the college faculty.  After all, the way it is now
students could take Earth/Space, Bio and Chem and satisfy regents without
ever having been exposed to physics concepts at all (since they wouldn't
have to take a 4th year to take physics)  However, if they took a freshman
course of Earth and Physical Science and then Bio and Chem they'd be
prepared for the state assessment and even if they didn't take a physics
course, they'd at least be exposed to the concepts of motion and forces.
There are students that won't go in this order--the advanced students will
take biology their freshman year, and then chem and physics--but those kids
would be prepared for the assessment by the end of the 3rd year just as the
other students would be because they'd had both chemistry and physics even
though they haven't had Physical science.

What sort of quality-control do you have in place right now for Regents
courses?  How do you know that all Earth/Space, bio, chem and
physics courses are taught at a college-prep level?  If you currently have a
process of quality control in place, we can apply that to Physical Science
(beef it up)...if you don't currently have a effective and efficient quality
control process than perhaps we need to come up with one!


On 4/1/07, EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx <EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx> wrote:

Hi Kelly-

Thanks for your quick response and refreshing my vague memory.  I now
clearly understand the dilemma that high school science teachers are
facing.  Now that I understand the problem, I'd like to try to figure out
how to help contribute to the solution.  What would be nice is to achieve
the following two goals:

1.  Eliminate your problem of being forced to teach physical science to
meet the state standards but then not having physical science count for
college prep curriculum.
2.  Satisfy the desires of college faculty (including myself) to receive
students with better science preparation.

Since the topic appears to be on the discussion table at the state level,
I'd like to formulate my response to our provost's inquiry that works
towards achieving both goals.  Maybe I am naive, but it seems to me that
can't be that hard to find a mutually acceptable solution.  I'd be
interested in hearing proposed solutions from the high school science
teachers in this regard.  From your perspective, what is the best thing to
do?  Ditch the physical science standards and replace them with a set of
standards from a single science discipline instead of a mishmash of
Keep the physical science standards but raise the bar so that the
college-bound students get better preparation?

I was looking on the KACT listerver archive and noticed there were some
interesting ideas being proposed in this area.  In particular, the idea of
reversing the traditional biology/chemistry/physics sequence seemed like
had some merit to me.  Maybe this "crisis" can be an opportunity to think
outside the box and produce something that is better for everybody.



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


"Kelly Deters" <kellymdeters@xxxxxxxxx> wrote on 03/31/2007 04:45:50 PM:

> 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 courses.
> 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 assessment.
> 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
> 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!
> Kelly
> 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
> 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
> to change the policy now.
> I have my own thoughts and biases on this issue.  However, I'd like to
> the perspective of some high school teachers who care deeply about
> education.  In my own experience, college faculty don't always have a
> insight into what is going on in the high schools.   I seem to recall
> 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

> 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
> courses will just be watering down the requirements, reducing the rigor
> 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
> 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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