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High school chemistry as a predictor of college chemistry performance

Thomas Earl Keller, University of Massachusetts Amherst


High school science teachers cite "academic preparation" as the primary goal of their instruction. Almost universally, they focus their courses' content and design on the skills and knowledge that they believe are necessary for success in subsequent courses in that particular science. This study challenges the accuracy and efficacy of that priority. Data on completion of high school chemistry courses were disaggregated, analyzed, and compared with grade performance in first-year college chemistry at three institutions of higher education in Maine. Completion of any level of high school chemistry failed to correlate with academic performance in college chemistry. The study compared scores on the Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) in mathematics and reading and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in quantitative and verbal areas with grade performance in first-year college chemistry. It revealed positive correlations between test scores and course grades with the mathematics section of the MEA and with both portions of the SAT. Maine high school chemistry teachers cited different priorities for varying levels of high school chemistry. Those teaching the highest level courses reported covering more of the textbook material, but spending less time using a text than did their colleagues teaching lower level courses. Teachers using the American Chemical Society's "Chemistry in the Community" program articulated substantially different course goals, expectations, and use of instructional time than did their colleagues using other text based programs. This study involved administering a pre and post questionnaire to students enrolled in first-year college chemistry, gathering data from their high school and college records, and surveying Maine high school chemistry teachers. The study employed non-parametric statistics, correlations and comparisons of means to analyze the data.

Subject Area

Science education|Secondary education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Keller, Thomas Earl, "High school chemistry as a predictor of college chemistry performance" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9823746.