Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NSF's Science and Engineering Indicators 2008


The National Science Foundation recently released Science and Engineering Indicators 2008. According to this report, “…In science, average scores increased for fourth grade students … held steady for eighth graders; but declined for 12th graders between 1996 (the first year the assessments were given) and 2005.”

What does this tell us? In the U.S. educational system, we appear to be losing our science students somewhere between fourth grade and high school. The pressing question is why.

One possibility? Poor instructional material. In 2000, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061 found the content of high school biology textbooks severely lacking. AAAS's 1999 study of middle school science textbooks was even worse, finding no textbook to be even satisfactory.

Another reason may be inadequate support and professional development for K-12 science teachers. This issue was raised by Linda Froschauer, former President of the National Science Teachers Association, during her 2007 interview (note: this links to a pdf file) – Meeting the Needs of Science Teachers – with Cathy Tramontana of Project 2061.

Whatever the reason, we need to be doing a better job of supporting and encouraging science education in the United States. Our future depends on it.


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