Schools Failing to Deliver Acceptable Science Curricula: What Can You Do?

Like students, schools and school curricula get graded, too. Are they meeting certain criteria and expectations? When it comes to teaching science, more than half of the states in the country are doing a below-average job. What can be done to get schools to do better when it comes to educating our children in this important subject?

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Cold, Hard Facts

President Obama has been pushing for stronger STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education across the country for much of his presidency. He has stressed the importance of these subjects to keep America competitive in high-tech jobs within the global arena.

Yet it seems that schools are largely failing to rise to this challenge, or at least 25% of it: according to a recent report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, schools are failing (quite miserably, in many cases) to meet state science standards established by the National Research Council (NRC).

How bad is it? When it comes to teaching science, 38 states earn only a 'C' or below. Ten fail outright, with 17 getting a dismal 'D'. And only two states received an 'A'!

The problem is not necessarily a new one. Back in 2005, before President Bush's No Child Left Behind Law mandated standardized science testing, Fordham reported that about half the states were failing to set high standards in science.

Evolution Revolution

Content and clarity are the two main areas on which the Fordham report, The State of Science Standards 2012, focuses. The conclusion is that many state standards are 'vague' and that science classes do not integrate scientific inquiry.

Also, it shows that many schools are generally weak when it comes to teaching evolution. In many cases, the topic is not taught as fact and is instead presented as theory.

According to a February 2012 article in USA Today, less than 30% of high school biology teachers in the United States teach evolution as biological fact despite concrete scientific evidence. And 13% of these teachers advocate teaching creationism, which is not part of the NRC science education standards.

But even sticking to the standards when it comes to evolution isn't enough; the four states with the strongest evolution teachings in their current standards each received a 'D' in the Fordham report. This is due to the fact that the whole grade does not reflect how states did in particular areas of science.

Improvements on the Way?

As a parent of a child who might not be getting the best in science education, what can you do?

For one, hope that schools do not cave in to pro-creationism pressure. Also, 26 states are currently working with the NRC to develop new standards (which have been reviewed by Fordham and have been given a B+ grade), which hopefully will be adopted and adhered to in most schools.

And if the District of Columbia is any example, changing standards could be the answer. D.C. changed their standards after they received a 'C' in 2005 and, along with California, got an 'A' in Fordham's most recent report.

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