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Abysmal National Science Scores

Abysmal National Science Scores

The results are in, and the scores are not good.

Ironically, on the very day that President Obama made the importance of science and math instruction a major theme in his State of the Union speech, the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that about two-thirds of U.S. fourth-graders failed to show proficiency in science in 2009.

Almost Three-Fourths Of Students Are Not Proficient

In addition, 70 percent of eighth-graders and 79 percent of twelfth-graders did not make proficiency in the science portion of the test, known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” (The NAEP is a national-level assessment of what students can do in various subjects and is given only to these three grades levels.)

Major Achievement Gaps

Even more alarming were some of the demographic discrepancies.
From The Washington Post:

There were major achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups: Black and Hispanic students trailed their white and Asian American peers by 20 to 30 points on a 300-point scale.

There was a gender gap at all three grade levels, widest among older students: The average score for 12th-grade boys was 153; for 12th-grade girls, 147.

Many students failed to reach a basic level of achievement. Performance was judged as advanced, proficient, basic or below basic.

Examples of basic skills: A fourth-grader should be able to explain the benefit of an adaptation for an organism, an eighth-grader should be able to relate oxygen level to atmospheric conditions at higher elevations, and a 12th-grader should be able to solve a design problem related to the electrical force between objects.

Why Such Dismal Scores?

Although some science testing is now mandated under No Child Left Behind(NCLB), the education act has forced teachers to focus more time on math, reading and English instruction, the subjects highlighted in the standardized tests.

There’s another important reason too. Many teachers feel “under-trained” in science and are “hesitant about emphasizing it in their classrooms,” says Harold Pratt, a fellow in science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Under-Trained Teachers

A recent survey  of 923 elementary teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area found that 80 percent of those teachers devote less than an hour a week to science, and another 16 percent spend no time at all on science. And the lack of high-quality science at the elementary level makes it difficult for students to catch up later.

Let’s hope that President Obama’s words in his State of the Union address are not just empty rhetoric, but are followed by action.

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4:41PM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

Science & math education teach logic and rational thought. If we had had more of that with some of our current crop of politicians, we wouldn't be suffering such fools in office!

8:06AM PDT on May 3, 2011

If you don't teach it they can't learn it. Let's get back to teach ALL subjects and not just for testing in English and Math.

6:02PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

I would be interested to learn how this is being dealt with in New Jersey by The Christie, who is doing the cutting. I'll bet anything he lets through may in fact be really worth while.

7:53AM PST on Feb 1, 2011

Well trained teachers, well motivated pupils and support for pupils who have learning difficulties need to be provided. But, it costs money!! You have to invest in education if you want good results!!

8:29AM PST on Jan 29, 2011

We need to stop talking a starting making our State Legislatures do something about this problem. The Federal Government can not, as it stands now, do it alone.

6:01PM PST on Jan 28, 2011

Retired people need to get together with schools to teach. If more people who had interesting jobs could get children interested in anything other than celebrities and sports it would be a very good thing for society. The word science scares people and they don't know the many faceted realm of science.

9:32AM PST on Jan 28, 2011

Thanks for the article.

8:48AM PST on Jan 28, 2011

Considering how well our huge amount of money tossed into this fray has worked, maybe we'd be better off not getting the government to direct more attention to the problem.

Education reform efforts have largely failed despite an increase in years kids spend under government school control and one of the largest per capita spending rates in the world. Between fighting teacher unions, dealing with Fed regs to "improve" school sports/school access, testing requirements etc, we muddle along with poorly educated kids (except for the home schooled minority) who require remedial training to even survive in college.

Our education system produces kids who think they're great but once in the real world find out self esteem and a dollar MIGHT get you a decent cup of coffee. With that track record, we should think twice before throwing more money at this problem which is just a symptom of what government fails to do.

7:21AM PST on Jan 28, 2011

We have such incredible programming on the Science Channel, Smithsonian, etc. - why can we not excite kids with these programs in class? "Build it Bigger" should inspire budding engineers and architects, "Equator" should inspire our kids to be biologists, veterinarians, even botanists. We have so much on offer - we just need to get it into the teachers hands and the kids faces. Could we each commit to purchasing a DVD collection for one of our local schools? Contact them and ask them what they would want to teach around. I have never found a teacher yet that didn't want to inspire their kids (yes - they think of them as THEIR KIDS) - and video is the medium kids respond to best.

11:29PM PST on Jan 27, 2011

I don't think things are much better in Australia, especially in Primary School.
Also the national testing is only in literacy and numeracy and schools do teach to the test because their funding depends on it.

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