Thursday, December 08, 2005

What's Your State's Science Grade?

Some 22 states recieved a grade of "D" or "F" in a recent Fordham Foundation review of academic standards for primary-secondary school science:

"At a time of increasing anxiety about our children's readiness in math and science, U.S. science education is under assault, with 'discovery learning' attacking on one flank and the Discovery Institute on the other," said Chester E. Finn, Jr. of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which sponsored and published the study. "The National Academies, Thomas Friedman, and others have called on Americans to 'get serious' about science, but few state standards can fairly be described as serious. We all know that great standards don't guarantee a good education for a state's students, but weak standards make it much less likely."

The State of State Science Standards 2005—the first comprehensive study of science academic standards conducted since 2000—appraised the quality of each state's K-12 science standards as they are rushing to meet the No Child Left Behind Act's mandate for testing in this critical subject. The results are mixed.

The reviewers found that low-scoring state standards shared common problems, including:

  • Excessive length and difficulty of navigation, even for science experts.
  • Missing facts and concepts that are integral to physics, chemistry, and biology.
  • An obsession with "discovery learning" where children are left to uncover scientific concepts without guidance or discussion of the underlying core of scientific knowledge.

Fifteen states flunked, and another seven earned "D" grades. Nine states and the District of Columbia merited only a mediocre "C." One-quarter of low-scoring states dropped by two letter grades since Fordham last reviewed science standards in 2000. The remaining nineteen states earned grades of "A" or "B," and of these, eight (or almost half) showed marked improvement over the past five years. The states earning "A" marks in the new evaluation include California, Virginia, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Indiana, New York, and New Mexico.

The above table shows each state's grade for both 2005 and 2000. In order to see how a particular state did, click on the image to see a larger version, and then click on the lower right-hand corner of that to make it even bigger. And yes, that is indeed an "F-" down at the bottom, right next to Kansas.

State-by-state reviews can be found right here.
Fordham's Checker Finn, who writes Education Gadfly, has more.
See this week's edition of The Carnival Of Education (guest-hosted by What It's Like on the Inside) right here. See our latest posts over there.