Labette County High School physics students take part in national study

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Physics students at one Southeast Kansas high school take part in a national study.

Senior Joe Mendoza says it all started with a test.

“Temperatures, wave forms, vibrations,” says Joe Mendoza, a senior at Labette County High School.

But unlike other tests, this one came in the mail.

“When I got the envelope I could hardly believe it, because it had my name on it, and it had Harvard, Smithsonian. What the heck is going on?” says Jinnifer Gartner, a physics instructor at Labette County High School.

Physics instructor Jinnifer Gartner says the study was mailed to schools across the nation, and was completely voluntary. The test was made up of 600 possible questions, taking a look at the misconceptions that high school physics students hold and how well teachers address them.

“I had to take it, they had to take it. It was 30 questions, so out of that 600 we took one version of the test that had 30 questions on it, and then they graded them. So I mailed them in, and I didn’t hear anything all summer long,” says Jinnifer Gartner.

That all changed last Tuesday, when another letter came in the mail, letting Gartner know her kids were moving on to phase two. And that could only happen if they scored well enough.

“I would assume that my students have done at least 50% or better on the test, and I, myself, did, they expected me to fall within the 73 to 94% range, and so probably both of those things had to happen for us to be included in the phase two,” says Gartner.

Mendoza isn’t a part of the study this year, but he says that’s ok, because he’s proud of the way he and the rest of last year’s group were able to represent their school on a national stage.

“It’s really cool to think that small town USA is taking part in such a prestigious study from such a prestigious school,” says Joe Mendoza.

The study has been conducted once every ten years since the 1960’s. Gartner says Labette County High School is one of only 88 schools nationwide to participate, and one of only two in the state of Kansas.

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