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State of Science Education

The Nation's Report Card

National Assessment of Educational Progress


The Nation's Report Card: Science 2009
January 25, 2011

The National Assessment Governing Board sets standards for what students should know and be able to do. For each subject and for each grade, the Governing Board has established standards for Basic, Proficient, and Advanced performance. Ultimately, the goal is to have all students performing at or above the Proficient level. Tests were administered to three grade levels:

  • Grade 4: 72 percent performed at or above Basic, which includes students at the Basic, Proficient, and Advanced levels. Thirty-four percent scored at or above Proficient. One percent scored in the Advanced range.
  • Grade 8: 63 percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Basic level, while 30 percent scored at or above Proficient. Two percent scored in the Advanced range.
  • Grade 12: 60 percent of students performed at or above the Basic level, and 21 percent performed at or above Proficient. One percent performed at Advanced .

Comparative Results of U.S. Students in International Tests

National Center for Education Statistics


NCES Statement on PISA 2009
December 7, 2010

Following are the performance results of students in the United States on an international study known as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of 34 highly industrialized countries.

On the science literacy scale, the average score of U.S. students was not measurably different from the OECD average. Among the 33 other OECD countries, 12 had higher average scores than the United States, 9 had lower average scores, and 12 had average scores that were not measurably different from the U.S. average score.

PISA describes six science literacy proficiency levels ranging from the most advanced at Level 6 to the lowest at Level 1. An additional category (below level 1) includes students whose skills are not developed sufficiently to be described by PISA.

Twenty-nine percent of U.S. students and students in the OECD countries on average scored at or above level 4 on the science literacy scale. Level 4 is the level at which students "select and integrate explanations from different disciplines of science or technology" and "link those explanations directly to...life situations." Eighteen percent of U.S. students and students in the OECD countries on average scored below level 2. Students performing below level 2 in reading literacy are below what OECD calls a baseline level of proficiency.

 

Hands-On Science Helps Kids Learn More

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)

"Elementary school students learn science best when...they are involved in first-hand exploration and investigation and inquiry/process skills are nurtured."

Middle school "science concepts must be presented in an age-appropriate, engaging way so that students can build on their prior knowledge and attain the necessary background to participate successfully and responsibly in our highly scientific and technological society."

"[Science teachers should] nurture curiosity about the natural world and include 'hands-on, minds-on' inquiry-based science instruction. [They should] engage students in laboratory investigations a minimum of 80 percent of the science instruction time."


A Commitment to Improving U.S. Achievement in STEM Education

"...Our nation's students aren't learning at a rate that will maintain America's role as an international leader in the sciences. When only 1 or 2 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.

"President Obama is committed to improving achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). He 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. Our nation's long-term economic prosperity depends on providing a world-class education to all students, especially in mathematics and science."


Public Opinion Survey Emphasizes Need for Hands-On Science Education

Californians believe that science education should be a priority for the state's schools and want it to be taught early and more often, according to new public opinion research released today by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. Californians believe that science education is key to the future of the state. Three quarters say science should be a higher priority for California schools because it keeps both America and California at the forefront of technology and innovation.