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

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