Thursday, June 10, 2010

Call for standards for science education

Alan I. Leshner, Shirley Malcom, Jo Ellen Roseman published an editorial in Science magazine calling for the scientific community to support "common, internationally benchmarked, state-approved standards" for science education. They write:
Great concern has been voiced for at least 30 years about the sad state of U.S. primary and secondary education in mathematics, science, engineering, and technology, but little real progress has been made. The most recent findings from the U.S. Department of Education brought no optimism. In 2005, 32% of all U.S. fourth-graders and 41% of eighth-graders scored below expected achievement levels in science. Nearly 30% of entering college students needed remedial science and math courses. However, we are at a moment in U.S. history to finally address one cause of the problems, and the scientific community needs to help capture this unique opportunity.

The many national commissions and studies of science education in the past three decades have consistently identified the same two issues and potential remedies: a need for much better-prepared math and science teachers and for a clear statement of learning goals for science that are the same across the United States. The consistency would remove some of the disadvantages faced by students in states with less rigorous standards, and it would ease students' mobility across state boundaries. It would also help the United States develop robust curriculum and assessment materials and prepare teachers who understand the science to use such tools to help students reach the standards. Nearly all of America's competitor countries have national science education standards and score much higher on international science achievement assessments: U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 21st among students in 30 developed nations in science on the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment.
The United States can not afford to be in the bottom third of achievement in teaching science, and Leshner, Malcolm and Roseman are right that strong national standards would be a step in the right direction!

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