Saturday, April 28, 2012

How Well Does Your State Score on Science Education?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

According to a report by the  Thomas B. Fordham Institute most American states are failing in science education from K through 12 grade. From their press release:
Since the Sputnik launch of 1957, Americans have regarded science education as crucial to our national security and economic competitiveness. Just recently, a National Science Board report found that the U.S. could soon be overtaken as global leader in supporting science and technology, and advocates educational improvement as crucial to America maintaining its role as the world’s engine of scientific innovation. But The State of State Science Standards, which reviews and analyzes the guidelines that inform K-12 science curriculum and instruction in every state and the District of Columbia, concludes that what states presently expect of their schools in this critical subject is woefully inadequate.
In this comprehensive appraisal, more than 75 percent of states received grades of C or lower, and a majority received D’s or F’s. California and the District of Columbia earned the only straight As—while Indiana, Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Virginia received A-‘s for their excellent state science standards. But most states lack rigorous, content-rich standards. Seven of them received B-level grades; 12 states received Cs; 16 states received Ds; and 10 states received failing F grades. 
I point this information out to you because I am concerned that if our children do not get a sound science education they will not be ready for adulthood in a world that is increasingly complicated and science based.

The foundation's press release points out four major problem areas:
  1. While many states are handling evolution better today than during the last Fordham review in 2005, anti- evolutionary pressures continue to threaten and weaken science standards in many jurisdictions.
  2. A great many standards are so vague for educators as to be completely meaningless. Only 7 states earned full- credit scores for clarity and specificity while 29 earned a one or zero out of three.
  3. Science educators, curriculum developers, and standards writers have focused excessive attention on “inquiry- based learning”—attempting to help students learn through “discovery” instead of direct instruction of specific content. In too many states, these inquiry standards are vague to the point of uselessness—depriving students of an education based on substantive scientific content.
  4. Mathematics is essential to science, yet few states make this link between math and science clear—and many seem to go to great lengths to avoid mathematical formulae and equations altogether. Students cannot adequately learn physics and chemistry without understanding mathematical concepts and mastering quantitative operations. 

I have posted the A and B graded states below along with links to a free PDF of the complete report:

The State of State Science Standards: Grades in Rank Order A's and B's only

State Science Standards Grades, 2012

Read more:

The State of State Science Standards 2012 January 31, 2012

State reviews by Lawrence S. Lerner, Ursula Goodenough, John Lynch, Martha Schwartz, and Richard Schwartz
NAEP review by Paul R. Gross

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Helping Your Children With Homework

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Phil,

My son is learning fractions. I cannot help him. He says he is not good at fractions. But he does not try. He is smart but very stubborn. He is not doing his homework because he is saying he doesn't understand it.

Nina in Fresno CA

Hi Nina,

Thanks for this great question. Let's take your son at his word and help him to understand fractions. First I want you to talk to his teacher. Maybe there is a tutoring program at his school. Maybe there is some problem at school you don't know about. It's a good idea to have regular contact with the teacher.

But, what if the school is not enough?

How do you help your children with their homework if you do not understand their homework yourself? First, be honest with yourself. I know it is painful, but you cannot answer every question your child can come up with. It is OK to not know everything. Honestly tell your child, "I don't get that math... Let's find someone who can help us."

There is help... Great help and it is free!

There is a free and amazing website every parent should know about: It is a non-profit organization set up to teach the world... for free.

I went to the website and in their search box I typed FRACTIONS. It brought me to a window with lots of lessons on fractions. The first was the most basic lesson on the subject: fractions... what are the parts of a fraction called?

The student is offered a video lesson. It is calm and short. Then the student is asked if he would like to do some practice questions. No presure, it is all at his pace.

Let's go to school

Let's look at the 2 1/2 minute video about the parts of fractions:

A student can view the video as many times as they wish. He can back it up and rehear and see any part he wishes.

Then he can work some practice questions by clicking the green PRACTICE THIS CONCEPT BUTTON.

The Khan Academy website is even set up to track your son's progress as he learns, if the two of you want to.

This site is open to everyone. If you want to learn something from days gone by... Khan Academy will be happy to teach you. Adults are welcome. And it is free!

Parents should start here

The Khan Academy site is massive and growing daily. I advise you to grab a cup of tea and sit down for an informative adventure. Start at: Khan Academy | Where do I begin? How should I get started

In my humble opinion, Salman Khan, the mastermind behind Khan Academy, is Nobel Prize material.


Dr. Phil

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How Tobacco & Alcohol Companies Advertise to Your Children

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

You may have heard that tobacco and alcohol advertising is banned on youth oriented programming and in kids magazines, so you think your kids are safe from their influence, but you would be wrong.

While you won't find ads on Sponge Bob or in Highlights Magazine, the tobacco and alcohol companies didn't have to try very hard to find ways around this. A 2001 survey found that the average teen saw 250 ads for alcohol on TV, and 30% saw upwards of 800 ads. Companies know that kids and teens watch programs that are not specifically marketed for children. A recent survey found ads for alcohol on 13 of the 15 most popular shows with teens. This goes for product placement in movies too, like when Super Man is thrown into a Marlboro delivery truck, or there is an ad for Cutty Sark scotch on the brick wall behind the villain. Some people say, well that's okay in movies for adults. Okay - of 145 popular movies reviewed in 2008, 79% of the R rated movies had product placement for tobacco or alcohol, compared to 82% of the PG-13 movies. Movies most of our children over the age of 10 watch.

Magazine advertising has a similar story. Alcohol and tobacco companies know that plenty of teens read magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Cosmopolitan, and even Time. (Many hundreds of schools use it as part of their social science curriculum). These magazines, while not specifically written for teens are nonetheless read by them in large numbers, and the tobacco and alcohol companies know this too. In 2008 the alcohol industry spent 4 Billion - with a B, dollars on advertising. And most of this is marketed to teens. More money is spent advertising alcohol than for soda, potato chips, juice drinks, and sneakers - combined.

One half of all alcohol is sold to those addicted to it or to teens under 18. In fact, JAMA -the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that people under 21 consume 19.7% of all alcohol. Remember, the legal drinking age in the US is 21.

Why is this demographic so important to the alcohol and tobacco industries? Teens have had less experience in judging advertising critically. Most young people have yet to pick a brand. Studies have found that 47-88% of all cigarette advertising is for the three most popular brands with teenagers. That's right, teenagers, not adults. Advertisers have found that there is little point in advertising to existing customers, they've picked the brand they like are not likely to be swayed. That's why you will find little advertising, if any, for alcohol and tobacco in magazines such as Fine Woodworking, or Good House Keeping, publications that teens don't tend to read. If teens aren't reading it, the tobacco and alcohol advertisers have found there is little profit in advertising in it. So yes, they are advertising to your children, clear and simple.

What can you do? Obviously you can't shelter your underage children from all forms of advertising, but what you can do is talk to your children about viewing these ads critically. You can start with young kids, after all, why do companies put toys in cereal boxes or Happy Meals? I have had many conversations in the cereal aisle explaining that we don't buy cereal for the toys, we buy it to eat, and we need to start our day off with good food.

Point out to teens the images that the alcohol and tobacco companies use and discuss why. Let them come up with answers. This begins to lead them down the path to critical thinking. While it won't completely stop them from being influenced by advertising, they will begin to approach ads with a more cautious eye. Seat belts don't stop accidents from happening, but they protect you from worse harm when you get in an accident. The same is true for teaching our children to view ads critically. If they know the tobacco and alcohol companies are trying to manipulate them - and what teen wants adults to manipulate them - they will have some protection when they are "hit" with an ad.

The numbers in this article came from an excellent video put out by Human Relations Media called: Targeted: How Tobacco and Alcohol Companies Try to Get You Hooked. You can watch a short preview of this at:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How would you start an international conversation about drug usage?

By Philip Copitch, Ph.D.

If you had a limited budget, but you really wanted to talk to lots of people around the world about drugs, how would you get the word out?

The Israel Anti-Drug Authority got creative and used Facebook... 
until they were forced to stop.

Take one minute and 43 seconds to learn what happened:

Drugs set your timeline from Israel Anti-drug Authority on Vimeo.