The U.S. is Failing in Science

Laura Joszt

The U.S. might be trying to reform college-level science education, but when it comes to K-12, 75% of the states get a C or lower for science education.

Although the U.S. is trying to reform its college-level science and technology education, the country might find change difficult since the majority of the states scored very poorly in science education, according to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

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President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology would like to drastically increase the amount of professionals in science, technology, engineering and math fields, the Fordham report revealed that K-12 science standards in most states “remain mediocre to awful.”

“If America is to remain a prosperous, scientifically-advanced and economically competitive nation, then we must ensure that every school is teaching science to a very high standard,” said Chester E. Finn, Jr., Fordham’s president. “If our expectations are low and unclear, we’re guaranteeing the failure of our students and the weakening of our nation.”

California and the District of Columbia led the nation with perfect scores of 10, granting them the A’s. However more than half of the country is stuck in the C/D range with 28 states placing there. Even worse, 10 states were given F’s: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

At the very bottom of the list, Wisconsin was the only state to score zeros in both content and rigor, and clarity and specificity. The states are in charge of setting the bar for material, and in Wisconsin, there are only a total of 10 pages for teachers to create curriculum out of for the entire K-12 schooling, according to the report.

In D.C., the report noted that the “life science standards are thorough, well developed, and appropriately rigorous. They could easily serve as a model for other states.” Fourth graders in D.C. are being taught the immune system, pathogens and vaccines, which high schoolers in other states might never be taught.

The report noted four areas of concern, one being that antievolutionary pressures are weakening science standards in some states. Also, the standards are vague to the point of being meaningless in 29 states. The link between math and science is either not clear or avoided in some states. Lastly, states aren’t focusing enough on direct instruction, instead preferring the vague “inquiry-based learning.”

“It’s no secret what good science standards look like,” Finn said. “It’s a blight upon the United States, however, that such standards are guiding the schools and teachers in so few places today.”