Are we dumbing down 9th grade physics?

Jay Matthews:

I am keeping my weekly Extra Credit column alive on this blog with occasional answers to reader questions, the format of that column I did for many years in the Extras before they died. This teacher, Michael Feinberg (no relation to the co-founder of the KIPP schools with the same name), sent me a copy of an intriguing letter about physics he sent to the Montgomery County school superintendent, and agreed to let me get an answer and use it here.
Dear Dr. Weast:
I am a retired MCPS teacher; I taught Physics at both Kennedy H.S. and Whitman H.S. until the time that I retired in 2005. After retirement I have, on occasion, tutored Physics students.
When the 9th grade Physics curriculum was introduced I opposed it on the grounds that Physics should be taught at a higher mathematical level. While tutoring students in both grades 9 and 11/12 I see that this is true; students in 11th grade learn rigorous Physics with mathematical applications while students in 9th grade usually do descriptive worksheets. I believe that it unfair that students in 9 th grade receive the same honors credit for what is promoted as the same curriculum but is not the same.

One thought on “Are we dumbing down 9th grade physics?”

  1. I may be wrong but my understanding is conceptual physics is designed for freshmen to help introduce them to science in general. It becomes the basics for biology, chemistry and advanced physics. The hope is if students understand physics’ connection to all sciences the students will pursue the fourth year of high school science (not a requirement in government schools) and even pursue college science.
    Another reason for freshmen physics is government schools tend NOT to provide the solid math foundations students need to excel in advanced physics. This lack of math aptitude by students (and their teachers) prevents so many students that have an interest in science from continuing with it in college.
    So…if you do not like freshman physics get your math teachers off their duffs and out of the classroom if they are not qualified. Otherwise freshman physics is an excellent idea…

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