Few US kids do well in science class: study

Jan 25, 2011

A government study on US kids found Tuesday that just one in three show proficiency in science in middle school and junior high, while that number drops to one in five of those graduating high school.

And even fewer, between one and two percent, showed a grasp of advanced science, said the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), issued by the US Department of Education.

The study looked at nationwide samples of 156,500 fourth-graders (age 9-10), and 151,100 eighth-graders (age 13-14), and 11,100 12th-graders (age 17-18).

The assessment method, which analyzed how kids answered questions relating to physical, Earth, life and space sciences, was devised in 2009 so the findings could not be compared to prior years, the report said.

One percent of fourth-graders, two percent of eighth-graders, and one percent of twelfth-graders performed at the advanced level.

And many students fell short of even basic understanding of concepts at their grade level: 72 percent of fourth graders performed at or above the basic level in 2009, while the same could be said for 63 percent of eighth graders and 60 percent of 12th graders.

Boys scored higher than girls in every grade measured, while white students outperformed other races in the younger grades but were on an even keel with Asian American students by 12th grade.

City fared the worst, while those attending school in the suburbs performed best.

Assignments to assess a level of "proficient" included "Recognize that gravitational force constantly affects an object (grade 4)" and "Evaluate two methods to help control an invasive species (grade 12)."

Advanced could design an investigation to compare types of bird food (grade 4), predict the Sun's position in the sky (grade 8), and recognize a nuclear fission reaction (grade 12).

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cyberCMDR
4.9 / 5 (11) Jan 25, 2011
I blame the lawyers. My wife taught high school, and had to plan out where the students would sit so that the gang banger didn't sit next to the future valedictorian, and the emotionally disturbed student was someplace where his outbursts disrupted class less, etc. We need to establish tracking in the classrooms, so each student is taught according to their interest and aptitude. They get mixed together because the parents of children with mental disabilities sue the schools if their kids aren't put in the same classes as the brightest students. The teachers get penalized based on failures, not based on whether students reach their potential, so they teach to the slowest/least interested students.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2011
If the kids knew they were going to die in WWIII someday, then maybe they would be more willing to learn math and science.
pauljpease
5 / 5 (6) Jan 25, 2011
1-2% sounds about right to me. I teach high school math and science, and I'd agree that only 1 out of 50 kids or so actually has high aptitude+interest in science. More could probably do decent science, but most just aren't interested. It's interesting that kids in suburbs perform better. I'd like to see demographics on their parents' careers. I don't know many scientists who live or raise kids in the inner city. If you've never met a scientist, it's probably not something you'd be interested in...
Silverhill
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2011
I blame the lawyers.
Blame also the school systems that insist on putting too many students into a class, because of being unwilling to pay for enough teachers (and to pay those teachers enough). A teacher who has too many students can't devote the necessary amount of time and effort needed by the slow kids AND the bright kids AND the regular kids.

We need to establish tracking in the classrooms, so each student is taught according to their interest and aptitude.
Easily said; not so easily done. See above.
Doug_Huffman
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2011
Government teachers are generally overpaid under-producers unless wage slave production is the objective.
OldTeach
5 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2011
I teach in elementary school in the suburbs. We have good books for each grade level and I present the lessons well. My classes enjoy learning about the basic knowledge of our earth, its animals, and our human role as scientists to develop its potential and new frontiers.
Pkunk_
5 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2011
I'd put it down to plain and simple laziness , living the "good life" with minimum effort and a dying family support system.
soulman
4.6 / 5 (11) Jan 25, 2011
just one in three show proficiency in science in middle school and junior high, while that number drops to one in five of those graduating high school

That's just tragic. No wonder pseudo-scientific nonsense and the culture of the woo are in ascendancy.
soulman
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 26, 2011
LOL, ubavontuba's rating must mean he's pro anti-intellectalism and woo. Not that that wasn't already self evident. :)
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2011
Not that that...
and
anti-intellectalism
Really?

And you'd accuse ME of anti-intellectualism?

But more germane to the article, a child of mine is launching a home built rocket this week in school. He insisted on tackling the whole project on his own. What fun!
Vendicar_Decarian
4.6 / 5 (9) Jan 26, 2011
We needs more home Skoolen of our youngins so they learns how to shoot a gun and skin a coon. That is what school is for.

The three R's are Readen, Religion, and Revolution against the Commie Liberals according to Faux news

soulman
3.9 / 5 (7) Jan 26, 2011
Not that that...
and
anti-intellectalism
Really?

And you'd accuse ME of anti-intellectualism?

Yes I do. The first quoted usage is correct, look it up. The second quote is clearly a typo. You try quoting and typing on an iPhone!
But more germane to the article, a child of mine is launching a home built rocket this week in school. He insisted on tackling the whole project on his own. What fun!

Not really germane at all to the article. No one said that everyone's a moron - it was a statistical study, and the overall statistics ain't pretty. I'm happy if your kid bucks the trend.
ubavontuba
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 26, 2011
Yes I do. The first quoted usage is correct, look it up.
Technically, but it's awkward. "Not that this isn't self evident." would be a better choice.
The second quote is clearly a typo. You try quoting and typing on an iPhone!
If you're going to level accusations like this, you might at least set a better example.
Not really germane at all to the article. No one said that everyone's a moron - it was a statistical study, and the overall statistics ain't pretty. I'm happy if your kid bucks the trend.
Thank you.
soulman
3.7 / 5 (7) Jan 26, 2011
Technically, but it's awkward. "Not that this isn't self evident." would be a better choice.

Not at all awkward, just in your opinion. It's actually quite common usage.
If you're going to level accusations like this, you might at least set a better example.

Well, a typo is just a typo sometimes. Had I spotted it in the short time allowed for edits, I would have fixed it as I'm somewhat pedantic that way. But it does seem like a bit of a cheap shot on your part.
Thank you.

No worries.
ubavontuba
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 26, 2011
Not at all awkward, just in your opinion. It's actually quite common usage.
Well, this website disagrees:

http:/en.allexperts.com/q/General-Writing-Grammar-680/x-90.htm

But like I said, it's technically correct.

Well, a typo is just a typo sometimes. Had I spotted it in the short time allowed for edits, I would have fixed it as I'm somewhat pedantic that way. But it does seem like a bit of a cheap shot on your part.
And your accusation wasn't?
No worries.
None whatsoever. But I do wonder how long you plan on continuing this downranking game.
soulman
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2011
None whatsoever. But I do wonder how long you plan on continuing this downranking game.

Pretty much as long as you do. However, the problem is that most of your posts deserve a one, so the game will no doubt continue.
ubavontuba
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2011
Pretty much as long as you do. However, the problem is that most of your posts deserve a one, so the game will no doubt continue.
Well, as long as you feel that way about it, I suppose it will.

I'd normally make an additional snappy retort like, "To bad a 'one' is as low as I can rank your posts, 'cause they stink." but instead I'll ask:

If you don't like my posts, why do you go out of your way to rank each one? And in general, why won't you argue the merits?
Moebius
3.4 / 5 (10) Jan 26, 2011
"Few US kids do well in science class..." And then they go on to become climate change skeptics.

With FOX leading the charge in the attack on science and reason it's no wonder. Kids whose parents are FOX news devotees are never going to respect science. It's a sad state of affairs when the real news is on a comedy channel (Jon Stewart) and Mr. Wizard is dead.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2011
I grew to love science because I had a good chemistry teacher who was fun. Kinda like a Mr. Wizard.

With FOX leading the charge in the attack on science and reason it's no wonder.


How many jr. high, sr. high kids in public school actually watch the news? Probably only the ones who love science and math...

Is your reasoning a product of public education as well?

Most of your inner city schools are dominated in heavy democrat voting communities. But it honestly has nothing to do with what news they watch.

It is for 2 main reasons.
1. Parents do not discipline their kids or push them to be better than they are/were.
2. Teachers lack authority to discipline
This results in one system like the Jackson Public School system scoring 5 points lower on the ACTs than the surrounding "suburban" public schools.

The suburbs expect more out of their kids, and they get it. Better teachers work there, because its easier to teach.
ereneon
3 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2011
The school system is still stuck in the world of 100 years ago. The educational system needs a complete reboot with emphasis on integrated math, science, and engineering. One fact that always strikes me is how poorly our public schools perform, but how amazing our university system is. I think the public schools should learn some lessons from successful colleges. If kids learned how to write phone apps in their classes (as many universities do), I think they would pay more attention ;-)
Skeptic_Heretic
4.6 / 5 (10) Jan 26, 2011
How many jr. high, sr. high kids in public school actually watch the news?
It's not the kids, it's their teachers and parents that cause the problem for the majority of cases.
Is your reasoning a product of public education as well?
In my opinion it is certainly the anti-science, anti-intellectual bent that is taught throughout our western society. If you were keeping track of bullying in highschool who would you see picked on more often, the winning quarterback or the science fair winner?

Our society worships youth and ignorance. It has infected every aspect of western culture. It's time to laud intellect and mental capability. No one should care how far you can throw if you're unable to do basic math.
lengould100
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2011
No one should care how far you can throw if you're unable to do basic math.


I like that. Now, go convince the crowds at the Superbowl.
Moebius
3 / 5 (6) Jan 26, 2011
yellowdart: How many jr. high, sr. high kids in public school actually watch the news? Probably only the ones who love science and math...


What, you don't know that parents have a teensy little bit of influence on their children? I watched the news when I was kid because my parents watched it and they controlled what was on. They may not watch it now, with the internet and their own TV, but the influence of a parents views shouldn't be dismissed.

It's not really sad about the Daily Show, I think it actually is a better news source than the mainstream news, and funny too.
Skeptic_Heretic
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2011
No one should care how far you can throw if you're unable to do basic math.


I like that. Now, go convince the crowds at the Superbowl.
If only I could.
trekgeek1
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 26, 2011
We need more science kids shows like Bill Nye, Mr. Wizard, Julius Sumner Miller, etc. Kids need to be exposed to science and math WITH cool experiments. Kids like loud, bright, colorful demonstrations. This seeds the interest of science in the young children.

The problem is that those shows aren't as popular, so they're not funded by advertising. Our government needs to do what the BBC does and give some funding to the major networks to have science shows. I know this raises the socialist alarm, but we need to force the networks to educate children through the most widespread media source, T.V.

This will be the end of the U.S.A. It will be our decline in math and science that slowly does us in before the public realizes it. It's like slowly boiling a frog.
TBW
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 26, 2011
I believe it's not just lawyers and teachers. Interest is cultivated at home first by a parent or sibling that has an attraction and basic understanding of our physical world. Even a healthy curiosity. I had two science teachers at school, both as much a source of entertainment as education. One, who taught physics, was a Japanese fellow who was quite smart and a good teacher, serious as a heart attack and sober as a cold stone. The other was a part time farmer who taught biology and was drunk almost everyday. He had a fondness for complaining about the price of diesel fuel and maple syrup, but somehow managed to get the job done despite his lack of focus. It was my father's interest in our physical world that rubbed off on me.
That may have been a couple decades ago, but the point is that an interested child won't be easily discouraged by even the most anal of lawyers and educators.
brianweymes
1.5 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2011
Predict the sun's position in the sky? I can't do that. No one ever taught us that because it wasn't emphasized. Different concepts were emphasized. Is the material on these tests truly relevant?
jdbertron
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
In School education is a privilege, not a right.
With the internet age, the *only* reason students can't learn on their own is because their parents' generation has already been alienated to science and no longer encourages curiosity.
lengould100
5 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
TBW: The problem is the present "lost generations" who have no parent or mentor who is not also "lost". The average mifddle-school / high-school teacher today couldn't "science" their way out of a wet paper bag. And I'm not simply talking about the nuts-and-bolts knowledge of the theories of Plank and Hawkings (or even Einstein), but the scientific method, which it is clear to anyone following the present AGW Climate debates, has never been taught to anyone recently.

Even teaching clear logical thought progression might help, but even that is too much to expect today.
TBW
5 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
TBW: The problem is the present "lost generations" who have no parent or mentor who is not also "lost".

Indeed. It's the saddest of chain reactions.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
Predict the sun's position in the sky? I can't do that. No one ever taught us that because it wasn't emphasized. Different concepts were emphasized. Is the material on these tests truly relevant?

I could do it from the time I was 7. They taught me a lot about the solar system in German primary schools. I knew most of the states of the US and provinces of Canada by age 10. The US educational system is absolutely embarassing.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
"If the kids knew they were going to die in WWIII someday, then maybe they would be more willing to learn math and science." - Zombieland

Knowing that would make me a hedonist.
Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (4) Jan 26, 2011
"Predict the sun's position in the sky? I can't do that." - Johnny Lardo

Why in the world would you have to be taught how to do that?

Where is the sun at 12 noon local time?

If you don't know that, then just use a bullet to end it all.

Vendicar_Decarian
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2011
"It will be our decline in math and science that slowly does us in before the public realizes it" - TrekGreek1

Realizes what?

America is #1 and will always be #1.

What America needs is a new tax cut for the wealthy and for it's corporations who shouldn't be paying any taxes at all.

God bless the GOP and their plan to maintain the military and cut all other government programs by 40% over the next 5 years.

Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Jan 26, 2011
"Our society worships youth and ignorance." - Pookie

George Bush proved that in America you can be a low grade moron and still become the president of the United states.

Hence Science is irrelevant.
Being smart is irrelevant.

All you need to know is that lower taxes are good the American People are easily driven with fear, and war boosts your public standing.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2011
"Government teachers are generally overpaid under-producers unless wage slave production is the objective." - Little Sambo

Producing good little wage slaves is exactly what the corporations that control America want.

Unthinking Cattle that are easily manipulated and managed serve their interests best.
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2011
"Our society worships youth and ignorance." - Pookie

George Bush proved that in America you can be a low grade moron and still become the president of the United states.

Hence Science is irrelevant.
Being smart is irrelevant.

Pookie?

Well at least I know you're being sarcastic.
Gawad
5 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2011
I'm only able to look in from the outside, but it's still fairly easy to see that if the people of the United States are unable or unwilling to deal with this elephant in the ballroom you're in for a slow decline into eventual...utter contemptible mediocrity or even irrelevance. Never mind that the US has given up its lead in so many leading edge scientific, engineering and industrial domains (SSC, Tevatron, modern fission plants-it's not like NA lacks for thorium, made in Japan, made in Taiwan, made in China)...Even if you had built the SSC, it might well have ended up being staffed by foreign nationals, especially at the highest levels. Certainly, funding is an issue as well as priority confusion in the form of Football, BB, and Baseball, but your major problem is religious/political, despite your vaunted separation of church & state. As long as YEC's and other Fundies are allowed to exert pressure on schoolboards and pols you are assuring your slide down into miserable ignorance.
Gawad
5 / 5 (4) Jan 27, 2011
And BTW "Pookie", I think this:
They taught me a lot about the solar system in German primary schools. I knew most of the states of the US and provinces of Canada by age 10. The US educational system is absolutely embarassing.
is more accurate, or revealing than this:
it is certainly the anti-science, anti-intellectual bent that is taught throughout our western society
Unless by "western society" you were referring specifically to the States. I can't speak for Spain, but I have a better idea of the educational systems in Germany, France, Great Britain and Canada and I assure you that these countries do not suffer the same anti-intellectual influences and pressures that have infected the States. I'm not saying they don't have problems to deal with, but nothing like having to deal with the anti-science, anti-intellectual bend that seems to actually be *rewarded* down below the 49th.
Gawad
5 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2011
Goodness that first post sounded like an awful rant. Or lecturing. Didn't mean it too. Just tried to cram too much into 1000 characters. Still, as Canadians some of us are quite concerned about what happens south of the border as many trends that start out there eventually make there way up here, for better or worse. Influence on Europe is far less direct, but up here, we're just sittin' Popsicles.
Yellowdart
2.7 / 5 (3) Jan 27, 2011
It's not the kids, it's their teachers and parents that cause the problem for the majority of cases.


Isnt that what I said later in my post?

No one should care how far you can throw if you're unable to do basic math.


Most college and NFL quarterbacks are smart. They have to understand the solution to their problem within 3 seconds without a calculator.

Simply because one does not handle math well, does not make them dumb. People excel in a wide range of subjects.

And besides, if you can throw that far and hit a target moving away from you at a sharp angle with high consistancy, you have every right to hire someone who can handle your defeciencies :)
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Jan 27, 2011
What, you don't know that parents have a teensy little bit of influence on their children? I watched the news when I was kid because my parents watched it and they controlled what was on. They may not watch it now, with the internet and their own TV, but the influence of a parents views shouldn't be dismissed.


I thought it was a given that most kids (especially in the evangelical conservative arena) are rejecting their parents views...or was that just a poor stereotype?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Jan 28, 2011
I thought it was a given that most kids (especially in the evangelical conservative arena) are rejecting their parents views...or was that just a poor stereotype?
Poor stereotype. Most people tend to adhere to the culture of their parents, especially when they're unexposed to other cultures.
VOR
not rated yet Jan 28, 2011
We needs more home Skoolen of our youngins so they learns how to shoot a gun and skin a coon. That is what school is for.

The three R's are Readen, Religion, and Revolution against the Commie Liberals according to Faux news


Vendicar (not entirely sure what side u r on) that's funny except for the part that it has an element of truth in it. The sad thing about American culture is that nerds are still not thought of as cool. We just dont get the relevance of scientific thought. Its not just scientific pursuits, but countless other things that depend on being able to reason. We are definately in decline and if we don't start taking it seriously it will only get much worse. And as we get collectively more stupid, we become more vulnerable to Faux news insanity.
lengould100
4 / 5 (4) Jan 28, 2011
The greatest problem of the US is if it ever gets to a point when it can no longer attract the "best and brightest" from the rest of the world. The concept that it's no longer interesting to move to the US is becoming very widespread (among the crowd which refuses to wear polkadot bowties every day).
Moebius
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 29, 2011
The US is in decline, it's called evolution. It's inevitable. The forefathers who created the foundation for this country did a great job but with one glaring flaw and that flaw will get us in the end. They forgot the reason they were there and didn't think far enough ahead, it's been close to 235 years, to put a mechanism in our government to prevent the need for it again. They forgot that they were there to create a revolution because the government that ran their lives was not working for them anymore.

Our government has a evolved a bit since then, not in good ways mostly in my opinion. Our legal system worships the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law and is still busy creating an ever bigger mountain of laws with no end in sight while the spirit of the law gets buried deeper and deeper. Our political bodies keep bad apples around way too long and they poison all newcomers and prevent any change.

The decline of science is just a symptom of a much greater malaise.
Moebius
1 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2011
One example. The US supreme court was created in 1789 when the US population was around 4 million people. There are now around 300 million people and our lives are still controlled by 9 people. Really in most cases by one of them. The majority of decisions are 5-4. The issues they decide are important and too important to many more of us than before to be decided by one person's vote.

Our forefathers probably never could have imagined what our country has become both in size and population. The supreme court needs to be changed to reflect the US as it is now with more seats that aren't political appointees. I for one don't want one person's political views to govern our lives forever because the courts decisions are basically written in stone and a 5-4 decision always leaves plenty of room for doubt whether it was the right decision or not.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2011
One of the biggest problems I see with America is that most people in general do not believe in something until they can see it for them self.

What I should have stated above was this: If the kids knew they were going to die in WWIII someday, then maybe they would be more willing to learn math and science in order to prevent it from happening to them.

Within fifty years what I have stated above will become self-evident.
DerekD
2 / 5 (3) Jan 29, 2011
Wow, everyone here is missing the variable that would make the largest positive difference in science aptitude.

CHANGE THE UNIT SYSTEM TO METRIC!!!!!!

It is possible with some time and patience for young kids to understand scientific concepts under the english unit system, but those concepts are quickly forgotten because the process of thought that brought them to their grasp of a concept is difficult to reproduce under confusing units.

Kids then get frustrated, then tend to think they have bad memory, critical thinking, and comprehension skills, thus leading them to rebel from science.

Simple as that. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
BillFox
3 / 5 (4) Jan 30, 2011
What have you personally done about it anyhow? You so readily accuse others of complacency and yet I'd venture to wager against you ever taking any iota of action against the ideals you so easily criticize. Generally I view the parrent's lack of action disgusting, as well as so quickly shifting blame from themselves. These young minds are the future we entrust our society and planet upon. So, in response to the mute shouting for change, go forth, and MAKE change!
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (1) Jan 30, 2011
...up here, we're just sittin' Popsicles.
You do know that Canada is one o' the United States, right? We just let you THINK you're independent 'cause none o' us 'telligent Yanks wants any part o' yer Popsicle frozen land.

You uppity Canadians think you're so smart, sittin' all smug with your silly maple leaf flag ...patiently plotting against us...

I have proof:

If you look at this map, here:

http:/nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main2009/2011451.asp#section4

...you'll find the states with the lowest science test scores are ...well, the lowest states. Therefore proving science test scores are geographically based, rather than demographically based.

And as the geographics indicate the farther north you are, the smarter you are, we can only conclude that American science test scores are a plot by Canadian activists used to demoralize Americans in preparation for a Canadian invasion!

All hail the maple leaf!
Gawad
not rated yet Jan 31, 2011
...a plot by Canadian activists used to demoralize Americans in preparation for a Canadian invasion!

All hail the maple leaf!

You're...*COUGH*...you're getting warmer. Drat. Now, physorg, let's face it, isn't *that* widely read, so if I could impress upon you to please not let the cat out of the bag while this whole thing hasn't been blown wide open? Eh? Relax, just, you know, let it happen. You won't feel a thing....promise.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2011
They forgot that they were there to create a revolution because the government that ran their lives was not working for them anymore.


I dont believe they forgot. The preamble clearly states "We the People..." which means the people have established it and can unestablish it should they chose to do so.

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