‘Report Card’ on Science: Most U.S. Students Aren’t ‘Proficient’

Just 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of 12th-graders performed at or above ‘proficient’ in a national science assessment, according to a NAEP report card.

Notebook-2On Tuesday night, President Obama is expected to emphasize education – and particularly America’s need to catch up in math and science – in his State of the Union address.

But one national “report card” on test scores, released Tuesday morning, paints a dismal picture of how well the country’s students have mastered science.

Just 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of 12th-graders are performing at or above “proficient” in the most recent snapshot from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which gives science scores from 2009. A very small number – just 1 or 2 percent at each grade level – scored at the “advanced” level, and relatively large numbers of students didn’t even meet the most basic level.

“The results released today show that our nation’s students aren’t learning at a rate that will maintain America’s role as an international leader in the sciences,” said Arne Duncan, the US secretary of Education, in a statement. “When only 1 or 2 percent of children score at the advanced levels on NAEP, the next generation will not be ready to be world-class inventors, doctors, and engineers.”

The NAEP science test was revised considerably since the last time students were tested, and the results can’t be compared with previous years. The new framework takes into account scientific advances, science educators say, and does a better job of measuring higher-level scientific thinking. Many questions are open-ended and ask students to design or evaluate experiments, for instance.

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Source: Amanda Paulson | The Christian Science Monitor