NSTA Cites Neglect of K-12 Science Education as Cause for Low Benchmark Achievement on ACT Science Test

11:35:33 AM
30 2003

NSTA Cites Neglect of K-12 Science Education as Cause for Low Benchmark Achievement on ACT Science Test

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ARLINGTON, VA, AUGUST 21, 2003”€The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), which represents more than 55,000 science educators across the nation, said today it believes that the low numbers of students reaching the benchmark on the 2003 ACT science test can be attributed to the growing neglect of K”€œ12 science education in classrooms across the nation. This statement comes in response to scores released yesterday indicating that only a small percentage of college-bound high school seniors who take the yearly test are prepared for college biology.

“We are reaping what we sow,” said Dr. John Penick, NSTA President and Head of the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education at North Carolina State University. “For years, far too many districts have failed to place enough focus on the quality and the amount of science education provided to their students. Schools are reducing or eliminating the science education their students are receiving because of pressure to show achievement in other subjects, such as mathematics and reading. We all know that math and reading skills are critical to students’ education, but to put science on the back burner is simply not acceptable.”

According to ACT, students who attain the benchmarks set by the test (a score of 24 for science) have a high probability of completing first-year college courses with a grade of C or higher. Only one fourth (26 percent) of 2003 high school graduates earned a score of 24 or higher on the science portion of the test. In addition, fewer than half (45 percent) of all ACT-tested graduates in the class of 2003 took three or more years of science, including physics, in high school.

The results of the ACT science test are consistent with many other student performance scores released in recent years. In 2000, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is considered to be the nation’s report card, found that fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade students have made little progress in science achievement since 1996. On average, only one in five American high school seniors has a solid grasp of science. In addition, the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the most comprehensive international comparison conducted to date, revealed that while U.S. fourth graders performed at the top of the charts, 12th graders scored near the bottom.

“Science education deserves to be the fourth ’R,’ but the nation continues to shortchange our students by not considering science as important as other core subjects,” said Dr. Gerald Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director. “This situation is exacerbated by the No Child Left Behind Act, which is placing stringent accountability pressures on schools. While testing for math and reading take effect in 2005, science will not be tested until 2007. This scenario will force many schools to devote resources and time only to math and reading”€which will be even more detrimental to science education.”

Even more disturbing are the results of minority students’ performance on the ACT. Only 5 percent of African American test-takers, 10 percent of Mexican American students, and 14 percent of Hispanic and American Indian students scored at or above the college readiness benchmark for college biology. These results are also consistent with other studies that show large performance gaps in science for minority students.

“If science is for all”€and it must be”€we must commit ourselves to providing minority students with the same opportunities to learn as we do for others,” said Wheeler.

For years NSTA, as well as many other organizations and corporations, have sounded the alarm about the potential risks of failing to properly educate our students in science. A report released in early 2001 by the U.S. Commission on National Security concluded that the lack of a sound science and math education can have serious repercussions for national security. More recently, the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a public policy organization, published a report on the decline in science and math skills among students and its potential to imperil the future economic growth of our country.

NSTA calls on schools and communities to make science a part of the daily curriculum of all students and to encourage students to take more and challenging science courses that will better prepare them for the future. The Association also calls for more support for science educators who are struggling to keep science alive for their students.

"We can and must improve student achievement in science. We can do this by ensuring that every student is taught by competent teacher who has a strong background in the science they are teaching, access to ongoing professional development to hone their skills in inquiry-based teaching, adequate resources, and time in the school day to plan and strategize with colleagues," said Penick. "We must also ensure that K”€œ12 science education remains in the core curriculum."

About NSTA

The Arlington, Va.-based National Science Teachers Association is the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. NSTA's current membership includes more than 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.

Media Contact:
Cindy Workosky
National Science Teachers Association
(703) 312-9248

Source by NSTA

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