No time for science in elementary school

California elementary schools are neglecting science to focus on reading and math, concludes a study, High Hopes — Few Opportunities, by WestEd, Lawrence Hall of Science and SRI. Furthermore, only a third of elementary teachers say they’re prepared to teach science well.

California set rigorous science standards in 1998, but science counts for less than 6 percent of a school’s score on the state’s Academic Performance Index. English counts for nearly 57 percent.

Unlike most districts, Fremont Unified has funded a science resource teacher at each elementary school, reports the San Jose Mercury News, which visited Fremont’s Brookvale Elementary School.

On Monday, fourth-graders at the school excitedly dissected the dried, regurgitated remains from owls’ stomachs, part of a lesson on the food chain. Seeing skeletons of birds and mice that had been swallowed whole teaches what owls eat and what other animals and bugs are in the ecosystem, (resource teacher Puja) Chhagani said.

However, 60 percent of districts hire no elementary science specialists. That leave science science instruction to classroom teachers, most of whom say they’re unprepared for the job. More than 85 percent of elementary teachers received no science-related professional development in the past three years.

While 44 percent of principals think it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction at their schools, the study estimated that only 10 percent of elementary classes offer high-quality science learning.

On the National Assessment of Education Progress, California’s fourth-graders ranked at the bottom, along with students from Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii.


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