Friday, March 24, 2017

Montgomery Parents Say, “Freshman Physics Too Hard.” Trenton Parents Say, “Thank You for the Opportunity.” [Video]

I just happened to see an article on CentralJersey.com about parents and students who oppose Montgomery's Physic First program that requires freshman to take an introductory physics course. The argument basically boils down to two points:
  • It's too difficult and stressful
  • It's not the way it's traditionally done
By traditionally done, I'm referring to the standard science sequence most people go through in high school (Biology to Chemistry to Physics). The reason being that freshmen students haven't yet studied the advanced math needed for physics. 

My first thought reading the article was to wonder if Montgomery was using NJCTL's PSI/PMI programs (zero-cost curricula developed by teachers through a non-profit organization) which promotes a new sequence where students take an algebra-based physics program as freshman. It doesn't appear this is the program Montgomery is using, but the reasoning behind it is similar.

We've covered NJCTL and their programs a number of times on Classroom Close-up. Last year, I produced a story about the implementation of their programs in Trenton.


It's interesting that the CentralJersey.com article mentions how Princeton High School doesn't require physics for freshman which seems to imply the fact supports the opposition in Montgomery. I actually talked about the idea of freshman physics with a number of academically-minded Princeton acquaintances after we filmed our story. Some found the idea intriguing, but I witnessed the same skepticism.

“They don't know the math yet.” and “That's not the way I learned it.”

All I can say in response is that there appears to be a lot of evidence and support from professional educators for the idea of putting physics first.

Final thoughts:
  • I find it intriguing that 300 parents in a high-performing, well-funded district oppose this new science sequence while struggling, urban districts like Trenton and Camden (where students historically lack access to higher level classes like physics) embrace the concept.
  • I wonder how much semantics plays into opposing the idea of physics first? If they called the freshman physics course something else would people even think twice about it? Back in the 1980's, my high school required students to take a 9th-grade science class called "Energy" which I'm pretty sure was essentially an intro to physics. To the best of my knowledge, no one opposed this class.