US science education: could do better, says report

The US risks falling behind in science, warns Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, unless science teaching is improved.

The results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that fewer than half of fourth-grade, eighth-grade and 11th-grade children were considered ‘proficient’ in science.

The tests covered the physical sciences, life and Earth science and space.

Overall, 34 percent of fourth-grade children, 30 percent of eighth-graders and 21 percent of 12th-graders were rated proficient, with 72 percent, 63 percent and 60 percent respectively showing basic skills and knowledge or above. Only one or two percent hit the highest level, Advanced.

“The results released today show that our nation’s students aren’t learning at a rate that will maintain America’s role as an international leader in the sciences,” says Duncan.

“When only one or two percent of children score at the advanced levels on NAEP, the next generation will not be ready to be world-class inventors, doctors, and engineers.”

There’s a strong racial skew to the results. Only 10 percent of black fourth-graders were considered proficient, compared to 46 percent of whites. Fifty-eight percent of Hispanic 12th-graders scored below the basic level, compared with 21 percent of whites.

“President Obama… has made a call for all hands on deck to parents, teachers, administrators, academics, local leaders, and the private sector to work together to advance science and mathematics education, and has set a goal to recruit 10,000 new science and mathematics teachers over the next two years,” said Duncan.

“Our nation’s long-term economic prosperity depends on providing a world-class education to all students, especially in mathematics and science.”