Image 01 Image 03

Caltech Drops Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics Course from Admissions Requirement

Caltech Drops Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics Course from Admissions Requirement

“has long been one of the most selective schools in the country”

As we recently pointed out, lots of college students are struggling with math. Is this related?

KTLA News reports:

Caltech opens doors to students from schools without calculus, physics, chemistry

The California Institute of Technology has long been one of the most selective schools in the country, boasting an admission rate of only 3% last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

It’s something the school embraces, highlighting that “Caltech is hard” on the school’s webpage listing academic requirements for applicants.

For some gifted applicants, however, what was already a daunting prospect was truly impossible, as Caltech refused to admit students who did not take physics, calculus and chemistry, even if their schools did not offer those classes.

But Thursday, the Pasadena school announced a new pathway for students who weren’t offered the chance to take those classes, according to the Times.

Those students can take and score highly on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or some other certification tests, including by taking and passing free online classes through Khan Academy to prove their mastery of the subjects.

The change could affect a large number of teens, as more than a third of U.S. high schools don’t offer calculus at all, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Calc and Chem and Physics are just busy work courses. None of these courses are part of the attack on racism and sexism

Maybe Caltech should change its motto to:

“Caltech . . . being woke ain’t rocket science.”

    CapeBuffalo in reply to Q. | September 3, 2023 at 10:07 pm

    Offering alternatives for students to prove competence is not woke. The core of the article is that high schools are not offering these courses.
    Too many people here are “knee.jerking” to slam wokeism.
    We need solutions. Not light comments
    How about finding a new Jaime Escalante. Provide these courses on You Tube, Rumble and establish a testing system.
    Why can’t the tech schools form a combine to offer this to the students who are really disadvantaged by lack of these courses.

“Those students can take and score highly on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or some other certification tests, ”
If that true, then not an issue. Very smart students, likely do better with self study rather than the “equity” math, physics, etc. courses now offered in US HS.

    JRaeL in reply to SHV. | September 3, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    Most likely their high schools dropped those courses in the name of equity. This gives those who would have taken those courses a way to accomplish getting into Cal-Tech without lowering the requirement for admission. An alternative does not mean elimination.

      JohnSmith100 in reply to JRaeL. | September 3, 2023 at 7:17 pm

      It was a long time ago, I was put on independent study in high school and when I graduated I had a passion for acquiring knowledge and sought out mentors who helped me advance. The point is, do students really need college today if they are motived to acquire skills?

      All these problems with woke academia, can college simply be bypassed? I taught myself many engineering disciplines. Could this be the future?

        They want you to pay some morons tens of thousands of dollars so you can get that piece of paper that supposedly proves you know what you knew before you paid out that money. Higher education, for the most part, is a scam.

        The Gentle Grizzly in reply to JohnSmith100. | September 3, 2023 at 8:45 pm

        “The point is, do students really need college today if they are motived to acquire skills?”

        They do while a majority of employers still require “paper”. In the case of law firms, it better be the “right” paper.

      diver64 in reply to JRaeL. | September 4, 2023 at 3:32 am

      Most high schools drop these courses because they can not find teachers qualified to run them.

    henrybowman in reply to SHV. | September 3, 2023 at 5:44 pm

    I was getting ready to watch celebratory bonfires and beers in Cambridge this weekend. But this valid observation throws the article into clickbait territory.

    I’d sooner accept a student with math credentials from Khan Academy than from Baltimore City..

      jimincalif in reply to henrybowman. | September 3, 2023 at 9:08 pm

      Agreed, c’mon Legal Insurrection, you can do better, we don’t need clickbait to read your posts. Reading the article, apparently Cal-Tech will still require that incoming students have the knowledge, they’re just expanding the ways students can obtain the knowledge and still qualify for admission. Hardly a come down by Cal-Tech, but more reflective of the state of government high schools.

    CapeBuffalo in reply to SHV. | September 3, 2023 at 9:44 pm

    Sorry,the downvote was accidental. I am in total agreement with you

    Thad Jarvis in reply to SHV. | September 3, 2023 at 11:06 pm

    Most good high schools don’t teach “equity math” whatever the hell that is. They teach AP Calculus AB and BC and statistics. Not every high school is a cauldron of Maoist indoctrination.

    BobM in reply to SHV. | September 5, 2023 at 12:01 am

    Yup. If you base your opinion on just the article’s headline you might think they don’t require you know the basics for those subjects,
    RTFA, guys.
    In many HS’s , the courses are either not required to graduate or missing or just subpar compared to the Khan self study courses. CalTech has decided to take that into account, which only makes sense given the increasing lowering of standards in govt-run HS’s nationwide.

New Caltech grading system:

“D” = C
“D+E” = B
“D+E+I” = A
(D+E+I) * “WOKE” = A+ with Honors

    That’s been an in-joke among college professors and adjuncts for almost two decades since grade inflation starting hitting us hard (without the DIE crap, that’s relatively new, and thank the good Lord came after I bailed on teaching).

    It got to the point where we weren’t even issuing C’s unless it was really an F. Everyone got A’s, with D students getting the occasional B if they didn’t just quit coming to class like the F students (in which case, they got an “I” . . . whether they actually met the requirements or not). Grrr. So happy not to have to deal with that soul-crushing environment any longer.

      amatuerwrangler in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | September 4, 2023 at 11:26 am

      The “grade inflation” got going strong in the 1960s when passing grades were issued in an effort to keep students in school, preserving the 2-S deferment, and out of Vietnam. As with most programs, both academic and government, they never end; so here we are.

      The battle should be over the “credential world” where no one can earn a living without having some kind of “permission slip” from a government agency. Its too bad the Founders did not think the “Right to Earn a Living” needed specific mention in the Bill of Rights.

It raises no one up but lowers everyone down.

It sounds to me like they test for competency in those. You retake e.g. calculus in college anyway.

I am an Electrical Engineer and graduated HS in 75. I took all those course in HS and then had to take them again in college.

This may not be a big change, and it may not be bad. Many high schools don’t offer some of these courses (especially Calculus), and now the push for “equity” means that more high schools, especially in CA, are dropping them. This policy just makes official something that Caltech has been doing for a long time. They allow students whose high schools don’t offer these courses to submit exam scores to show they are ready for Caltech.

I applied to Caltech in the 1960’s from a mediocre high school, and the highest-level math course they offered was a calculus prep course. Two of us applied, using test scores to substitute for a real Calculus class. We were both accepted — he went there and I went elsewhere.

So I look at this policy as just accepting the fact that some high schools are dropping their more challenging courses for “equity.” Caltech wants the best students from these crappy high schools to be able to apply anyway, even though their school administrators are idiots.

    Dathurtz in reply to OldProf2. | September 3, 2023 at 7:18 pm

    Small schools often do not have enough students that can perform at a high level to justify the class. I am glad there is a method to give the exceptional students from those schools a chance.

      CommoChief in reply to Dathurtz. | September 3, 2023 at 7:35 pm

      Yeah my graduating class was less than 100 and filled with very bright folks, many far brighter than me. Very good HS, consistently in top 10% of the State. Had 2 National Merit Scholarship recipients in my class. Well more than half the class went to University most with at least one Graduate degree. A great many full ride scholarships earned to great schools; Duke, Vandy, Princeton, Naval Academy along with top tier State Colleges. But no Calculus. It was Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2 and pre calculus. We did have Physics and Chemistry with a teacher who had industry experience and a PhD. Very fortunate to have her in our rural high school of less than 500 students.

        Dathurtz in reply to CommoChief. | September 3, 2023 at 7:50 pm

        Yes. That’s often where you find such teachers. My high school is small and has only nine teachers. Only one of us doesn’t have a degree in our field, though a lot of us have an MAT because it makes sense to get one. None of us have a doctorate, but it still makes a large difference as far as content depth goes.

        I have a student teacher to train this year and it is amazing the stuff he doesn’t know or just doesn’t have a good, cohesive understanding about.. Biology education major.

Gives them more time to study Cultural Marxism, how Capitalism keeps the poor underpaid to keep the fat cats rich. And how government needs to crack down on conservatives and white supremacists.

Part of me wants to rip CalTech but I’m understanding the situation they are finding themselves in because of way too many schools are not offering these classes.

It might be easy to say go to another high school but that’s not always an option for a family. Or if you live in an area where no high school is offering these classes.

I got a “5” my AP calculus test, but took it in college anyway. I aced calculus, chemistry, and physics. I guess I didn’t have any affirmative action competition to keep me from graduating.

If you read the article carefully, they still require those courses. They are just allowing transfer of an AP/IB, Cambridge test or similar. The biggest change I think is allowing the Khan Academy course to count, though. That seems rife for abuse.

It’s hardly a new problem. My high school didn’t have calculus, so I took the city bus to the nearest junior college to attend their class. This was in 1974.

Dropping these three courses of study could be a cover for selecting students who have …. as a group… performed poorly such as inner-city students. How many slots will be sacrificed on the alter of DEI/Wokeness that could have gone to superior students? We are about to find out… and CalTech may be in for some major headaches.

    amatuerwrangler in reply to alaskabob. | September 4, 2023 at 11:40 am

    They are not dropping anything but the hard requirement that the applicant completed the courses in high school. If the school did not offer the courses, the applicant was SOL; now they are showing an alternate route to admission. If your school does not offer these courses, you show some initiative and get the knowledge elsewhere and take the tests to show your knowledge. The problem looming for Cal-tech is being labelled as “white supremacist” for advocating personal initiative, a known indicator of WS.

The vile Dumb-o-crats’ anti-Midas touch, at work. Everything that these totalitarian reprobates touch predictably turns to excrement.

With universities now, the results are in the final admissions product. I have no objection to a uniform testing requirement in these subjects. I remember my ACTS in Chemistry where I scored quite high covered areas I never encountered in our text or course. However the IB and Khan are something else entirely. The Khan for example specifically targets blacks, Hispanics and Indian students and is self-contained and hence may not have objective standards. It may be the DEI walk around for unqualified students of color.
Sorry, I don’t need unqualified engineers anywhere in my life, and neither does anyone else.

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman

I don’t see a problem as long as you can pass the AP test. In fact, students how can study on their own and pass the test are the kind of students you want at CalTech. They will not have been corrupted by woke teachers.

Some of the comments motivated me to find this excellent (but long) article.

Busting the College-Industrial Complex

>> The purpose of mathematics instruction is for students to develop the knowledge, skills, and understanding that they will need to solve the world’s problems of the future through access to STEM fields or the use of rational thought in whatever job or career students wish to pursue. We are all mathematicians who are capable of knowing, doing, and enjoying math. Too often, though, math classes have become a gatekeeper, where only some students are seen as capable, and the teacher is the sole authority, promoting absolute answers. Though procedural understanding and fluency are important, we strive to create a math community where students grapple with rigorous and meaningful problems and engage in productive discourse with their peers that allow them to construct deep conceptual understanding which naturally leads to the development of those necessary procedures. We know that problem-solving means making mistakes and persevering through them, asking questions, and taking time to find and study patterns. Engaging students in a mathematics community of belonging requires shifts in teaching and learning described below. <<

This is the tripe being sold by the Portland Public Schools. IIRC,in the last few years they were talking about dropping calculu because it made the stupid, err, less capable kids feel bad. I guess the pathway to being a video games designer is sitting in moms basement and smoking weed. Math be optional.

Replacing degrees with subject matter competency testing is not “lowering standards.”

If students are competing for admission on the basis of high measured subject matter competency scores, that will raise, not lower, the bar for admission.

We would be much better off if in general degrees were replaced with competency testing. Many high schools have lowered their grading standards to such an extent that top grades don’t mean much, and are given out largely for showing compliance with DIE and CRT ideology.

I would like to see subject matter competency testing used broadly, and it would be an especially good way to weed out the recipients of disastrous woke education.

They won’t be able to pass any subject matter competency tests on any real subject. All they know is left-wing ideology, which is what most degrees these days actually signal.

Today’s college degree ought in general to be regarded negatively by employers, which should create demand for alternative measures of competency, the obvious one being subject matter test scores.

Good for Caltech for heading in this direction.

To quote one of my favorite YouTubers Jimmy’s World:

What can possibly go wrong?