Urban students lag in science

Students in Austin, Texas matched the national average in science in fourth and eighth grade, according to a study of science literacy in 17 big-city districts by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).  Following Austin, students in Charlotte, Jefferson County, Kentucky and Miami-Dade came close to the national average (which is not very high) at both grade levels.

Otherwise, the news is bleak, as Dropout Nation writes.

44

The percentage of fourth-graders . . . that scored Below Basic in science on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress.That is 15 percentage points below the already abysmal science illiteracy rate of 29 percent nationwide.

56

The percentage of eighth-graders in big cities scoring Below Basic in science. One out of every three students nationwide are scoring Below Basic in science.

74

Percentage of fourth-grade students in Detroit that scored Below Basic in science; the highest level of science illiteracy for students in any big-city district. Only Cleveland (70 percent) and Baltimore (69 percent) come close. The percentage of eighth-graders in Detroit scoring Below Basic in science? Four out of every five.

Two out of every three African-American students and half of Latinos scored Below Basic.

Students taught by National Board-certified teachers did not earn higher science scores.

The test was divided between multiple-choice and short answer questions on life science, physical science and earth and space sciences.

Here’s a fourth-grade sample question:

A student wants to know whether two cups hold the same volume of water. The two cups have different weights (masses).

Cup 1 is a styrofoam cup. Cup 2 is a ceramic mug.

The student completely fills Cup 1 with water. The student wants to measure if Cup 2 holds the same volume of water.

What should the student do next to complete the measurements?

  1. Completely fill Cup 2 with water and then look at the cups side by side
  2. Pour half of the water from Cup 1 into Cup 2, weigh each cup and then compare their weights
  3. Pour all of the water from Cup 1 into Cup 2 to see if the water completely fills Cup 2 without spilling over
  4. Completely fill Cup 2 with water, weigh each filled cup, and then compare weights

Here’s the Hechinger Report on how to improve science education.

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