Report: 8th-grade students still lag in science

Eighth-graders in the U.S. are doing better in science than they were two years ago, but seven out of 10 still are not considered proficient, the federal government said Thursday.

What's more, just 2 percent have the advanced skills that could lead to careers in the field. That's from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card, released by the U.S. Department of Education. The average score was 152, up from 150 in 2009.

Gerry Wheeler, interim head of the National Science Teachers Association, said the results showed "minuscule gains" in student achievement in science.

"When you consider the importance of being scientifically literate in today's , these scores are simply unacceptable," Wheeler said.

Just 31 percent of students were considered proficient or better on the test, the data show.

The gap between minority and white students narrowed for both blacks and Hispanics, but both groups still lag far behind their white . Hispanic students scored 137, up from 132 two years earlier, while scored 129, compared with 126 two years earlier.

White students scored an average of 163.

The and states have been working to improve student achievement in science by bolstering the number of top-notch science teachers in schools. The department has a goal of preparing 100,000 new science teachers over the next decade through incentive programs and bonuses for teachers that get certified in the subject.

Some states, like Georgia, pay more than their colleagues in other subjects in hopes of encouraging more college students to go into the field.

"This tells me that we need to work harder and faster to build capacity in schools and in districts across the country," said Arne Duncan, pointing to the stagnation in the numbers of top-scoring on NAEP. "We have to do things differently - that's why education reform is so critical."

The test was given last year to more than 120,000 eighth-graders from 7,300 schools. Of the 47 states that participated in the exam, 16 saw small increases in their scores. Most states had flat scores compared with 2009.

The national testing program mandated by Congress also tests fourth-, eighth- and twelfth-graders students in math, reading and other subjects.

The results also indicated there are significant differences between states.

In Mississippi, just 18 percent of students were proficient and no students scored in the advanced category, the worst performance in the country. Montana and North Dakota saw the best performance with 44 percent of students scoring proficient or better. California saw 22 percent of eighth-graders reach proficiency, compared with 30 percent in Georgia.

There are a variety of factors that likely contribute to the lackluster results, experts said. Many blame the results as an unintended side effect of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which puts more emphasis on math and reading than it does on science, history, arts and other subjects.

Others say the country's best college students majoring in science rarely go into teaching - instead choosing other, higher paying fields - which means children aren't getting quality instruction in the subject.

The exam tests knowledge and understanding of physical, life, Earth and space sciences. Students were asked to identify chemically similar elements on the periodic table, name a function of the human organ system and explain the effects of human land use on wildlife.

The test was also given in 2005, but it was changed significantly in 2009, making a comparison before then unreliable. The test was supposed to be given every four years, but federal officials moved it up so it can be compared to international tests given in the same year.

Results from the 2005 exam were also concerning: Only 29 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade scored proficient or better, as did just 18 percent of 12th-graders tested.

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Few US kids do well in science class: study

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May 10, 2012
priorities are all twisted the wrong way in this country with a possibility that it is intentional.

May 10, 2012
No shit, is anyone really surprised by this when a quarter of our population believe that dinosaur bones were put in the ground by the devil to fool you into thinking the Earth is older than 6000 years?

May 10, 2012
That has nothing to do with it, you fools.

I believe in Creation, and I scored in the 99th percentile in math an science on every standardized test I ever took.

I also tested out of the first half of my math and science curriculum in college, which was actually a bad thing, but it happened.

what you have to understand it is actually mostly the kids fault.

I used to read all the time in the Library from math and science texts, and the occasional fictional text as well. I typically knew the material in advanced science and math classes, above passing level, a year or two ahead of time in High School.

I had highly uneducated parents who couldn't do anything past what we consider 5th grade math today, so whatever success I had, it wasn't a parental thing. One possibility is that I was so motivated by their stupidity that I drove myself harder in some areas.

Doesn't matter how good teachers and curriculum are, if the students and parents don't give a damn then it won't matter.

May 10, 2012
I believe in Creation, and I scored in the 99th percentile in math an science on every standardized test I ever took.

How often were you forced to give answers that you considered incorrect on science tests?

I saw a thread on a YEC forum not too long ago where a student was asking how to go about taking a test on evolution, the majority of respondents told him to give the answers that he believed to be true whether he fails the test or not.

Do you know why the correct answers are dictated to students and students are not allowed to determine what the correct answer is for themselves? Because students are young and ignorant, a high school student thinking that they know better than their teacher is sheer arrogance and stupidity, and that is turning into the norm in this country.

May 10, 2012

I believe in Creation, and I scored in the 99th percentile in math an science on every standardized test I ever took.

In the United States. Yeah. Been there. Attended high school. To get a 99plus percentile was really laughably easy in the US.

If that kind of percentile is already considered 'proficient'...then you should go abroad once in your life. Might give you a nasty shock.

May 10, 2012
Liberty demands that everyone be able to decide what is true and not true for themselves. When the evil state decides what is true then the most fundamental form of liberty is lost.

As Americans we are an empire now. We define our own reality.

Why are you confusing education with politics?

Education is not political, education is education. Every answer is not correct, and the students do not get to determine what the correct answer is for themselves.

This utter lack of respect for real authority will be our downfall. I am not talking about the authority of government, I am talking about the authority of the educated over the ignorant, the authority of scientists over armchair philosophers, and the authority of subject matter experts over anyone else.

Evolution, for example, occurs. We witness it, we use it to create products, and we manipulate it to our advantage. It is truth, and that truth is not up for debate by teenage pissants in high school science class.

May 10, 2012
It's ridiculous that we have kids in this country who think they know enough to oppose their educators. In reality if you took one of these teenage creationists and put him in a room with an evolutionary biologist they wouldn't even be able to effectively communicate about the subject due to the HUGE disparity in knowledge between them. These idiots, encouraged by their idiot parents and church communities, have deluded themselves into thinking that they are on even ground with the scientists that they oppose when in reality the difference in intellectual altitude between the two is equivalent to that of an ant hill and mount Everest and bringing them up to an even level would be equivalent to teaching a carrot to do differential equations.

May 10, 2012

How often were you forced to give answers that you considered incorrect on science tests?

Just because I know and understand a theory or hypothesis doesn't mean I have to agree with it, and certainly not every detail or interpretation of it.

Memorizing "facts" and "hypothesis," as just taking someone else's word for it, is not science either. It's brainwashing.

Learning to use critical thinking is more important than facts.

Facts can be discovered later in life, but if you have no critical thinking all the facts in the world don't help.

May 10, 2012
Memorizing "facts" and "hypothesis," as just taking someone else's word for it, is not science either. It's brainwashing.

Students are not scientists, they have not yet earned the right to question established science, it would be like a toddler questioning the fundamental theorem of calculus.

Learning to use critical thinking is more important than facts.

Facts can be discovered later in life, but if you have no critical thinking all the facts in the world don't help.

Agreed, but your opinion as a grade school student is entirely irrelevant and worthless compared to the opinions of actual biologists, geologists, chemists, and physicists. You are in no position to question them or established scientific understanding AT THAT POINT... get your PhD, establish a reputation, THEN you have earned the right to question these things. Until then, fuck off, you're nothing.

May 11, 2012
You can't help but mix up politics into everything you discuss can you VD?

High school students are in no position to question their teachers. Let them get a PhD after their name and publish a few papers and then they have earned the right to question established science.

They are of course free to do so as high school students, the teacher is also free to fail them, and then they are free to work in fast food or retail or go off and die in a war half way around the world at the bidding of men who didn't make such a mistake.

May 11, 2012
All of my kids are tops in their class in science. One of my kids is going for a PHD in chemestry, two others have received awards in science. I myself have two patents.

Why do my kids do so well. I ask them to prove all things and hold fast to truth. I ask my kids to think. One of my kids came up with an argument against evolution which he thought was great, yet when I heard it I told him it was a bad argument and I gave him the reasons why. I ask my kids to know the theory of evolution forwards and backwards, to know it better than the teachers, and to judge it themselves.

The reason the educational system fails to teach science well is that dogma is more important than discovery.

If a student disagrees with global warming or evolution teachers punish them. What great teachers would do instead is encourage students to disagree and provide good reasons why they have their positions. Unfortunately students are force fed PC dogma, thinking is discouraged.

May 11, 2012
I was just recently mentoring a team of students working on a project. I told them what they were doing will fail, they disagreed and they were going to prove me wrong. I told them if they prove me wrong I would be happy. They were so energized to prove me wrong, that they worked overtime. (First attempt I was right, but they were close. Second attempt they got it working and they were so proud to prove me wrong)

We need to get kids to think, not shut them down. If I believed in evolution, I would still pass a kid with an A if they presented a paper trying to disprove evolution, if they 1. understood evolution, and 2. came up with good reasons why it is wrong.

Progressives hate debate and and questioning of their dogma, and unfortunately progressives rule the school system. If you are a progressive and you wonder why school scores are so low, it is your hatred of debate of your precious dogma that is the cause. Let kids think and they will bloom.

May 11, 2012
considering our societal structure, politics has played a large part on the psychological and educational format available to the public. there seems to be a mention of focus on reading and math while more mind expanding subjects, such as arts and sciences, are faded. who makes educational policy and what is their basis for it? what are the intended results? what are the results?

May 11, 2012
I don't know what school district you guys are describing but it's not the one I went to...

May 11, 2012
Also, it's simply not possible for a grade school student to come up with coherent criticism of established evolutionary theory. The amount of prerequisite knowledge required to do so is daunting. Of course they can THINK that they have a valid criticism, but they WILL be wrong.

Biological evolution is the single best supported modern theory in all of science. The evidence in favor of it is indisputable, we USE IT to our advantage, we can't make use of something that doesn't occur. The basis of the theory are well established and proven facts regarding genetics and population dynamics.

To disprove evolution is MUCH less likely than disproving the standard model of particle physics.

May 12, 2012
Ch, I would respectfully disagree that Biological evolution is best supported modern theory in all of science. Biological adaptation perhaps, not evolution. If you have time I would ask you to so a bit of research on the difference.

Also what I was stating that students come up with proofs appropriate for their age and grade. For High School student, I don't expect PHD level discourse, but it needs to be at the same level as what is being taught.

Again if a kids does not believe in AGW a great teacher will let them enjoy the research to prove it wrong. A great teacher will show the student the differnce between good research and bad.

There are many great sceintists who disagree with progressive PC beliefs in Global Warming and Evolution. Students need to be taught good reasoning and logic skills not just rote PC beliefs.

May 14, 2012
There are many great sceintists who disagree with progressive PC beliefs ... Evolution.

Nah, not really though:


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