Student science competency in the US has fallen to absymal lows and my own state of California is at the bottom of the pile. We produce a supply of scientists and researchers, have excellent universities for advanced studies, and a job market that employs scientists. The gap between the science-educated and uneducated is enormous.
One of the reasons given for poor performance in California is our number of non-English speaking students; however, this is rather lame considering the numbers of immigrant students in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and New York. I think this protective argument is losing plausibility. Other countries (European, Asian and Eastern) produce students with far higher competencies (which I realize has nothing to do with the state of education in California or the rest of the US, but I thought I’d throw that in).
Being one who is convinced that children are sponges and can absorb anything thrown at them, I can only assume that it must be the teachers and/or methods of teaching that are producing these results. I realize that parental involvement plays a huge part in a student’s success, but the numbers display more than a lack of parental interest.
I know teachers; I hang out with teachers. Each is dedicated and earning less than if they were out in the regular job market. I can’t imagine any of them as inadequate and all are doing their jobs because they are dedicated to education.
So where do they fall short? Is it basketball coach used as fill-in science teacher? A Britney Spears generation? Geekiness associated with science? Methods of instruction that don’t hold interest? Emphasis on math and reading? Dedicated scientists lured away by industry?
Despite the widespread emphasis on raising academic standards, the performance of high school seniors on a nationwide science test has declined since 1996, with 18 percent of those tested last year proving proficient in the subject, results released yesterday showed.
The scores of eighth graders who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, improved so slightly as to be statistically insignificant. The scores of fourth graders remained flat.
Educators said the results underscored the urgent need for highly skilled science and mathematics teachers, as well as other improvements at the high school level.
“The decline is not huge, but it is statistically significant and morally significant, as well,” Education Secretary Rod Paige said yesterday at a news conference. “After all, 12th- grade scores are the scores that really matter. If our graduates know less about science than their predecessors four years ago, then our hopes for a strong 21st-century work force are dimming just when we need them most.”
(National Science Scores for 12th Graders Slip
The New York Times)
``That’s really depressing,’’ said Eugenie Scott, executive director of the Oakland-based National Center for Science Education.
When I talk to science teachers, they are dismayed at the emphasis on reading and math instead of science,'' she said. It’s not uncommon for elementary schools to meet their science requirements by having kids read a book about science in English class, which is not the same thing.’’
Delaine Eastin, the state superintendent of public instruction, agreed. `Perhaps the saddest aspect of these results is that our nation generally is not doing well and that this state, home to the Silicon Valley and a leader in biotechnology, is not doing more to improve our education in science,’’ Eastin said.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ state-by-state assessment, the eighth-grade average score nationally increased one point between 1996 and 2000, to 149. In California, the average score for eighth-graders decreased from 138 to 132 over the same period.