science education

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STEM Standards

blessing and a curse

Teaching & Classroom

How I Teach

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on the rise

Science Reset

Five questions

Student & School Performance

New York

On world test, U.S. youth show math gains, but science is flat

American fourth-graders' average score on a world science test: below Singapore but above Italy. The test that every four years makes Americans feel bad about the kids these days, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, is out with new results, not all of them bad: Fourth- and eighth-graders appear to be improving in math, and bottom performers made the most gains. But in both grades, Americans remain stagnant in the (much less tested) subject of science. This is a good time to ask whether science gets enough attention. From the Christian Science Monitor: The US still performs better in science than the average among TIMSS countries, but the lack of progress underscores what some educators and others say is a pressing need to give more attention to science education in this country, in addition to the emphasis on reading and math. In spite of numerous reports, "many districts simply do not value science education," reads a statement released Tuesday by the National Science Teachers Association in Virginia. "Science is being eliminated from many K-6 classrooms," it says. Recall that the city Department of Education recently rolled out new science curriculum in response to concerns that science was being sidelined in favor of tested subjects. But it then delayed creating tests to match the curriculum — for two years in a row. The results are also a good reminder that, no matter how frustrating it is that American students are behind several nations, they are not behind everyone — not by far.
New York

No change in science testing climate this year

Example question from ## Intermediate Level Science exam## sampler. This year, the city is rolling out new science materials for grades 5, 7, and 8, building on the curriculum introduced last year in grades 3, 4, and 6. Yet new tests based on the curriculum have been delayed for the second straight year, the Post reported yesterday. A 2004 report by the City Council Committee on Education stated, "The most striking aspect of science in elementary schools is how rarely it is taught. Students are fortunate to get 45 minutes of science once a week for half the year." The report made a number of recommendations for recruiting highly-qualified science teachers, increasing the profile of science education, and holding schools accountable for science. In response to this and other reports that accountability in reading and math was pushing aside science and social studies instruction, the city introduced its new scope and sequence for science, based on state standards. Schools across the city select from a kit-based approach, a textbook-based approach, or a "blended" model which combines the textbooks and kits, or they may use approved alternatives. Yearly testing based on the curriculum was supposed to push school administrators to increase time spent on science and support teachers' implementation of the new curriculum. The delay in introducing the new tests poses a catch-22 for teachers fighting for attention, time, and resources for science education, but hoping to avoid the pressures and pitfalls of yearly standardized testing. Although many educators and students are undoubtedly relieved to avoid adding another exam to the already-full assessment calendar, others see the test as necessary to raise the profile of science education. At an August 2007 professional development workshop related to the new curriculum, some science teachers reported that their principals said they'd increase time for science once science tests started to matter for school accountability. Many teachers are also waiting to see what the tests emphasize. Will they focus more on content, reasoning skills, or laboratory skills? The state science exams currently given in 4th and 8th grade include multiple choice, constructed response (short answer), and performance (lab-based) sections. What will the new tests look like?