Before I discuss more specific deficiencies in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that the Kentucky Board of Education approved for use on June 5, 2013, I want to amplify on a comments made early in the new Fordham report on the new science standards about poor performance in science today across the United States. The evidence clearly shows science education in the United States is in poor condition.
Bluntly put, we have a HUGE problem with science education across the nation, Kentucky included.
Per the NAEP Data Explorer, the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in eighth grade science shows only around one in three students at this grade level perform at the “Proficient” level across the nation and in Kentucky.
Let’s break the data out by race and compare Kentucky’s dominant student racial group – its white students (84 percent of all students in Kentucky’s public schools) – to their counterparts in other states. Our white kids’ proficiency rate on eighth grade NAEP science in 2011 was statistically significantly lower than the nationwide white proficiency rate. Our whites also scored lower than whites in 30 other states by a statistically significant amount. Kentucky’s whites only statistically significantly outscored whites in just two states: Alabama and West Virginia.
There is no “Thank goodness for Mississippi” here! The Magnolia State’s white students tied ours once the statistical sampling errors in the NAEP proficiency rates are properly considered.
The sorry picture from the NAEP is amplified by recent data from the ACT college entrance test.
According to the ACT test results for all of Kentucky’s high school graduates in 2012, public and private school combined, only 22 percent of the Bluegrass State’s students were adequately prepared to survive a freshman biology course in a typical US college.
If we break the 2012 graduates’ ACT results out by race, only 24 percent of Kentucky’s dominant racial group, its whites, were ready for college science. When you consider that a virtually identical 23 percent of Mississippi’s whites were ready for college science, our need for concern grows dramatically.
Please consider that these percentages pertain only to our high school graduates. Dropouts are not considered. If the dropouts were included, it is unlikely many would be able to get high scores on the ACT, which would drag the percentages down even more.
All of this factual information raises questions about how much educators in this country truly know about what is needed to succeed with science education. Such knowledge is essential to writing good science standards.
The questionable grasp on what is really needed in science might explain why the Fordham Institute just gave the NextGen Science Standards a rather low performance score of “C” in their new review.
This also provides insight into the following, very telling comment in the Fordham report:
“Unfortunately, the NGSS suffer from the belief—widespread among educators—that practices are more important than content.”
It’s precisely the sort of mistake that people who don’t know much about really teaching science are likely to make.