US stu­dents still lag in sci­ence learn­ing

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -

WASH­ING­TON: The vast ma­jor­ity of US stu­dents still lack a solid grasp of sci­ence de­spite some mod­est gains by fourth and eighth graders, es­pe­cially girls and mi­nori­ties. The prob­lem is par­tic­u­larly acute among the na­tion’s high school se­niors. The 2015 Na­tional As­sess­ment of Ed­u­ca­tional Progress, of­ten called the Na­tion’s Re­port Card, re­leased Thurs­day shows only about a third of fourth and eighth graders demon­strated strong aca­demic per­for­mance in the sci­ences. Among 12th graders, just one in five were pro­fi­cient or above in sci­ence.

“We still are not at a place as a coun­try where we are pre­par­ing the fu­ture STEM work­force that we need,” Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary John B. King Jr., said re­fer­ring to sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing, and math cour­ses. “We think there’s sig­nif­i­cant work still to do, but we are heart­ened by the progress that we see in these re­sults.”

Gen­der gap

Av­er­age scores on the sci­ence exam were up four points in grades 4 and 8, and un­changed for 12th grade, com­pared to 2009. The re­sults also show that fourth-grade girls had closed the gen­der gap and were now per­form­ing as well as boys. In eighth grade, that gen­der gap had tight­ened. Achieve­ment gaps be­tween white, black and His­panic stu­dents nar­rowed, too, at grades four and eight, as mi­nor­ity stu­dents made greater gains, said Peggy Carr, act­ing com­mis­sioner at the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Sta­tis­tics.

Be­fore the re­sults were re­leased, sci­ence teacher Lisa Heg­dahl at McCaf­frey Mid­dle School in Galt, Cal­i­for­nia, said her eighth­grade stu­dents have a huge in­ter­est in sci­ence, of­ten want­ing to con­tinue their work out­side the class­room. “It’s great be­cause we were try­ing to show kids that sci­ence isn’t just about the class­room. It’s about the world you live in,” Heg­dahl, pres­i­dent of the Cal­i­for­nia Sci­ence Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, said in an in­ter­view. “It’s about why that tree is grow­ing. It’s why it’s mak­ing a shadow and why that shadow changes over time. It’s get­ting them to see the world a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ently and start­ing to be cu­ri­ous.”

Na­tion­ally, the test re­sults showed that 38 per­cent of fourth-grade stu­dents were con­sid­ered pro­fi­cient or above in sci­ence. In eighth grade, 34 per­cent were pro­fi­cient or above. Only 22 per­cent of 12th graders scored pro­fi­cient or above. The rest were at or below the ba­sic level.

At the state level, Ari­zona had the big­gest gain for fourth graders, scor­ing 11 points higher on the exam com­pared to 2009. Ten­nessee and Ge­or­gia fol­lowed, each with an eight-point gain. In eighth grade, the win­ners were Utah and Ten­nessee with tied for first place with a nine-point gain, fol­lowed by South Carolina and Mis­sis­sippi, which each had an eight-point score gain over 2009. State level re­sults were not avail­able for 12th grade.

The Na­tion’s Re­port Card is the largest na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tin­u­ing as­sess­ment of what Amer­i­can stu­dents know and don’t know in var­i­ous sub­jects. The sci­ence test mea­sures stu­dents’ knowl­edge of phys­i­cal sci­ence, life sci­ence, and Earth and space sci­ences. In fourth grade, the over­all av­er­age score was 154 on a scale of 300 to­tal points. The av­er­age score also was 154 for eighth grade. For high school se­niors, the av­er­age score was 150, flat from the last time the test was ad­min­is­tered in 2009. —

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