National Academy of Education: Traditional high school science sequence is “out of order”

One of my rituals with Bridge to Tomorrow is to quote  occasionally from the National Academy of Education White Paper on Science and Mathematics Education.    So to keep the tradition going, I quote:

The most common course sequence in science is Biology followed by Chemistry and Physics. This sequence is “out of order” in scientific terms, however. In biology class, 9th graders are introduced to the complex molecules within cells and the structure of DNA even though they know little about atoms and next to nothing about the chemistry and physics that can help them make sense of these structures and their functions. Furthermore, because of the limited course requirements in most states, standard science course sequence often means in practice that many high school students never study physics at all.

For the record, Florida’s “chemistry or physics” graduation requirement will do nothing to increase Florida’s high school physics course-taking rate of just over 20% among grads.  In fact, the rise of AP Environmental Science in high schools and the necessity to remediate students who fail the state’s new Biology end-of-course exam is likely to decrease the physics course-taking rate.

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