[KACT] Physical Science & REGENTS Qualified Admissions - Round 2

  • From: EOlmstea@xxxxxxxx
  • To: kact@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2007 00:51:21 -0500

Hello everybody-

Thanks for all your feedback!  I signed onto the KACT listserv so that
Kelly wouldn't wear out her forward button shuttling messages back and
forth between me and the listserv.  Before I get started on my responses to
the feedback I received, perhaps a little introduction is in order.  I am a
relatively new faculty member in chemistry at FHSU.  One of the
responsibilities that I have been assigned to do/inherited is to be the
liaison for the FHSU chemistry department on teacher education and
secondary education matters.  As is probably apparent from the naivete of
my posts, I am a definite newbie to secondary education issues within the
state of Kansas.  Forgive me for asking some obvious and basic questions,
but I am still trying to get an understanding of the issues and make sense
of it all.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I am still learning that there are
aspects of this issue that simply don't make sense.

When this question came up, I realized that I was supposed to be "the
department expert" on this and I didn't know diddly-squat.  Within our
department, the gut-level reaction was that we want better preparation for
our students and, from what we knew of physical science classes, adding
them to the qualified admissions list was not a step forward.  Our
department chair has been in contact with teachers at Hays High, but in
some ways Hays is an atypical school district.  So, I sent of a quick email
to Kelly and Brad just to get some additional perspective.  I didn't
realize the volume of response I'd get.  Looks like I opened up a can of
worms but it is a can of worms worth opening.

Responses to your feedback

1.  OK, you've convinced me that we should accept some type of physical
science for qualified admissions and I understand why it is important.  Now
the discussion can turn to what the nature of this course should be.

2.  I wholeheartedly agree that the notion of playing games with course
titles is a silly and unproductive exercise.  In fact, it is exactly this
practice of playing name games that has made the FHSU chemistry department
so skeptical of the original proposal to accept physical science as part of
the college prep curriculum.  We want to make certain that we are getting
content and not window-dressing.

3.  Earth/space science.  I was never very enthusiastic about the idea of
earth/space science as an good college-prep alternative to physical
science.  I'm less enthusiastic after reading some of the feedback.  Of
course, I am chemist who unconsciously types "Reagents" instead of
"Regents" so I am probably a little biased.  :-)

4.  I agree with point which several people made that physical science can
be taught with substance and that "college prep" chemistry and physics can
also be taught with a lack of rigor.  Touche!

5.  Gissel's suggestion that physical science serve as a prerequisite for
college-prep chemistry and physics really resonated with me!  I like the
idea of all students taking a physical science which contains a substantial
amount of basic chemistry and physics concepts.  If integrated into the
curriculum, it could enable the college-prep courses a get off to a running
start and cover more advanced material.  This is an idea that college
professors could really get behind if it is accompanied by a corresponding
beefing up of the physical science, chemistry, and physics standards.

6.  Since this is obviously a hot button issue for you folks, I'll do my
best to develop a recommendation that both accepts physical science and
improves the student preparation for college.  Then, I'll present it to my
department, and hopefully send it up the chain of command.  I think my
department (and college faculty in general) will buy into accepting
physical science if there is a demonstrated increase in the science content
of the college-prep curriculum.

Requests for additional feedback and discussion.

1.  Examples of beefed up physical science courses.  Several of you
describe physical science courses that are more rigorous in content and are
serving college-bound students.  Please send copies of your syllabi or
course outlines to:  EOlmstea@xxxxxxxxx  It would be helpful for me to have
an idea of what is being taught out there and what balance of chemistry vs.
physics vs. earth science is contained in these courses.  If I can present
content instead of just course titles, it will enable me to make a more
convincing case to my departmental colleagues.

2.  Draft response.  Here are the elements of my response that I am piecing
together that I am hoping will serve both of our interests.  Let me know
what you think.
a.  Because of the implementation of the state standards, in many school
districts there has been an evolution of physical science courses away from
non-rigorous science for students who are unlikely to take more science to
more rigorous courses which all college-bound students are required to
b.  There needs to be consistency between the Kansas State standards and
the Board of Regents qualified admissions.  Because a freshman level course
is integral to meeting the state physical science standards, a
freshman-level physical science course should be accepted as part of the
qualified admissions curriculum.
c.  In order for a physical science course to be acceptable for qualified
admissions, it must be integrated into the college-prep curriculum.  A
suitable physical science course should:
(i) cover a substantial amount of foundational chemistry and physics
(ii) serve as a prerequisite for college-prep chemistry and physics so that
time in these courses that is currently spent on introductory topics can be
freed up to spend on more advanced topics;
(iii) be accompanied by an increase in expectations and standards for
physical science, chemistry, and physics.
d.  In the interim while the course approval process and enhanced standards
are being developed, the decision of whether to accept a district's
physical science course for qualified admissions could be based upon its
students' performance on the state physical science assessment.  This would
reward districts that have already developed more rigorous physical science
courses and catalyze change in the other districts towards the desired

Sorry for the length of the post (and any late-night induced typos).  Feel
free to respond either through the listserver or direct to:

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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