I have been writing and speaking about major problems with Kentucky’s recent, wholesale adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards as the only K to 12 public school standards for science in the state.
Already, evidence of the deficiencies I have been talking about is cropping up.
For example, I recently discussed a Kentucky high school student’s complaints that his or her school doesn’t even offer the math and science courses needed to get into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in college. Another student even said his high school, which had offered physics, is dropping that essential STEM course. His school apparently understands that physics isn’t in the state’s new standards, so there can be no penalty for dropping that course.
This situation will likely grow worse. The Next Generation Science Standards don’t cover most of the material taught in either standard high school physics or chemistry courses.
And, now there is more evidence of the potential for NextGen Science deficiencies to cause problems, because it is clear that exiting high school chemistry courses in Kentucky leave something to be desired.
A January 13, 2014 article in the Lexington Herald-Leader, “More than 5,000 sign up for University of Kentucky’s free online chemistry course,” says two UK chemistry professors were highly concerned about the inadequate preparation of Kentucky high school students in chemistry. So those professors created a new, on line course to fill the gap. The response from Kentucky’s students was “massive.”
This situation provides interesting indications about serious inadequacies in existing upper level high school science courses in Kentucky’s schools (the deficiencies the professors noted in math preparation for chemistry are undoubtedly repeated in physics). Certainly, UK is to be saluted for standing in this breech in public education.
However, the university should not have to do this work at all, at least not for free.
If Kentucky had decent science standards, our K to 12 schools would already offer high grade chemistry and physics courses. Without changes, Next Generation Science Standards absolutely will not fix this problem. Subjects from both high school chemistry and physics are essentially all omitted in the new standards package. It’s as if no-one running our public education system cares about the existence, let alone the quality, of the higher end high school science courses in Kentucky’s schools.
So, it looks like UK is going to have to offer their online chemistry course option, for free, for a long time. And, the university needs to add something similar for physics, as well (which I am told is under early consideration). That’s just not right.
Here’s one problem: since the UK course is optional, and only part-time, high school students who enroll don’t get any credit towards high school graduation for their work.
Furthermore, neither UK nor the professors are getting paid for this effort to fix problems with high school chemistry offerings, which really is a K to 12 responsibility.
It’s clear that the Kentucky Department of Education needs to add real standards in high school chemistry and physics to their inadequate Next Generation Science Standards. That would open a way for UK’s on line course to be formally included in a credit-bearing chemistry course in all our schools – and maybe allow UK to get some well-earned reimbursement for making better education for our students possible.