On August 2, 2013 the New York Times ran an article titled, “Sneak Preview,” which talks about coming changes in both the SAT and the ACT. The changes are supposed to align these college entrance tests with the new education standards from the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards efforts.
But, something is really amiss for our kids in this.
Discussing the ACT’s planned change to a computerized, on line format, the Times says:
“In one sample question, students move a plunger on a cylindrical gas tank to change gas pressure and temperature. They then write a few sentences describing the relationship between distance and pressure and between temperature and pressure, and graph those relationships.”
There’s just one little hang-up.
The skills to really answer this question include knowledge of the Universal Gas Law, which relates the pressure and temperature of a gas to the volume of the gas and the number of molecules of the gas that are present. It’s actually a simple to solve formula that only requires algebra (no calculus needed). Simple, that is, if you know the formula.
However, while Kentucky’s old science standards included instruction on the Universal Gas Law, the Next Generation Science Standards don’t. This gas law is apparently among the MANY high school chemistry and physics topics that the Next Generation Science Standards classified as “Advanced Material” and beyond the scope of NextGen.
Essentially, while the ACT is apparently still assuming that kids will get real science courses in the 11th and 12th grades, NextGen Science isn’t going to make that happen.
It seems like no-one told ACT that Kentucky’s instruction in science is essentially going to stop with 10th grade biology if NextGen Science actually gets approved in the Bluegrass State (the Kentucky legislature will start consideration of NextGen Science in September). That makes me wonder if any of our real college science instructors were told, either.
If we want our kids to get what they are going to need on the ACT, and to survive in college science courses, our legislators need to take a long, hard look at NextGen Science (and not just do a rubber stamp effort like the state board of education performed). If our goal is really to fully prepare kids for college and careers, these standards are deficient in a number of areas.
And, apparently, even the ACT is going to show that very quickly.