US kids’ scientific proficiency brought into question

Newly published test scores suggest most school students are falling short of proficiency in science study, with a high proportion failing to reach even a basic level.

The figures, which cover tests in 2009, come from the National Assessment of Educational Assessment Progress, which is also known by the catchier brand name “The Nation’s Report Card.” It’s not a test of all students, but rather 156,500 fourth-graders, 15,100 eighth-graders and a surprisingly low 11,100 twelfth-graders.

The selection process involved picking schools that best represented the national, state and local demographics, and then picking students at random from these schools. Students with disabilities or other special educational needs were given special conditions (such as additional time) along the lines of what they would receive on a state exam basis.

The results led to students being graded as achieving a basic, proficient or advanced level for their age group. Among fourth graders, 72% reached at least the basic grade, 34% reached at least proficient, and 1% reached the advanced level. That left 28% that failed to reach the basic grade.

Among eighth-graders, 27% failed to reach basic, 63% reached at least basic, 30% reached at least proficient, and 2% reached advanced.

In the twelfth-grade, 40% failed to reach basic, 60% reached at least basic, 21% reached at least proficient, and 1% reached advanced.

The report also provided a host of demographic breakdowns, and let’s just say anyone hoping to see stereotypes shattered is out of luck. White, Asian and Pacific Islander children did better than Hispanic and African American children; boys generally outperformed girls; and as for Mississippi, the less said the better.

And while there’s no single easy answer for improving children’s performance, being in a private rather than public school, having rich and well-educated parents, and not living in an inner city all help produce better results.

Although there have been similar assessments in the past, officials have stressed that the way the testing was organized means results are not directly comparable. For example, these tests put less emphasis on simply remembering facts and more on using science knowledge and skills to solve problems.

The Associated Press notes the results have prompted debate about educational priorities. One theory is that the added emphasis on literacy and numeracy of the No Child Left Behind program may have detracted from the attention paid to subjects such as science. The counter argument is that without basic reading and mathematical skills, children would struggle to cope with science study in the first place.

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9 Responses to US kids’ scientific proficiency brought into question

  1. My previous blog touches base on the developing juvenilists of modern days. In addition, anyone can quantify the projectory of the human genome in a vacuum. Tech savy pioneers and manipulators will continue to invent, thus simplifying the daily tasks in personal, academic, and working environments. With respect to my faculties and observations, science is in a lineage progression to solving this stirring/scathing trend of students and their performance in school. Afterall, it's no surprise that encephalon of the bi-pedal prime ape has demonstrated degeneration after scientists conclusively revealed that nuclear warfare increases the odds of one getting diagnosed with defects such as DS(down-syndrome). On a side note, human civalization would do well if their optimal units took part in copulation as appose to people with fractured genomes. On a completely lateral and qualitative personal note, I'm not surprised by too many trends these days.

  2. as a teacher of science, this is not surprising but absolutely terrifies me. I see this in the classroom on a daily basis. we are teaching our kids one thing and then testing them on something else entirely.

  3. Feels like each generation are thought to be stupider than the previous. Maybe it's the result that in many cases it's the previous generation that are teaching the next and you get a constant stupidity constant added for each generation.

    No but seriously, when I grew up the focus was on understanding the theory and applying it to solving problems regardless of if it was a pure mathematical or scientific problem. This method gave everyone the tools to develop a much needed base (theory) and the exercise of applying it via critical thinking to solving stuff and we were much better…

    then I looked at my younger brother, already had they change to just like machines going over the a bunch of assigments, without really knowing why they were doing it this way. And god forbid that somewhere a long their school journey an assigment that required you to use your theory to solve came along.. well then I can without exaggerating say that 90% of the class failed solving it..

    And today with my kids it looks even worse.

  4. It’s pathetic to think that here in L.A. the graduation rate (not the rate of subject proficiency) for high school is *gag* almost 70%.

    There are multiple problems with the education system including teachers not being allowed to report to the parents that children are not succeeding (god forbid that little Johnny should feel singled out as a dunce), parents not caring or having the time or resources to help, kids tuning out because they’ve never been forced to apply themselves (god forbid, discipline), kids being moved ahead in grades despite not understanding the basics in early grades, etc.

    Schools for the majority are warehouses until they are old enough to be turned out. It’s easier to go to a device and lose yourself in the digital world, where everything comes at you in brief bursts of dubious information, than to have to sit down and try to hammer out thoughts in your head.

  5. It's pathetic to think that here in L.A. the graduation rate (not the rate of subject proficiency) for high school is *gag* almost 70%.

    There are multiple problems with the education system including teachers not being allowed to report to the parents that children are not succeeding (god forbid that little Johnny should feel singled out as a dunce), parents not caring or having the time or resources to help, kids tuning out because they've never been forced to apply themselves (god forbid, discipline), kids being moved ahead in grades despite not understanding the basics in early grades, etc.

    Schools for the majority are warehouses until they are old enough to be turned out. It's easier to go to a device and lose yourself in the digital world, where everything comes at you in brief bursts of dubious information, than to have to sit down and try to hammer out thoughts in your head.

  6. If American governments (local, State, and National) were serious about science and math education they would demand that every school have science labs and up-to-date computer labs without having to compete for grants and government funding. My suggestions are to make corporations actually pay taxes and cut the budgets of NASA and the military.

  7. As a high school science teacher from a affluent district, I can provide some insight on the validity of the results. Senior high school students, regardless of how smart or disciplined, generally don't care about the results tests like this. If it isn't tied to their graduation and/or college admission, they don't take it seriously. So although the results are alarming, consider this: How many of those 60% who reached only basic understanding or lower simply "blew off" the test?

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