America Should Adopt Higher Standards for Science Education

America Should Adopt Higher Standards for Science Education

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Americans have grown accustomed to bad news about student performance in math and science. On a 2009 study administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 15-year-olds in the U.S. placed 23rd in science and 31st in math out of 65 countries. On last year’s Nation’s Report Card assessments, only one third of eighth graders qualified as proficient in math or science. Those general statistics tell only a piece of the story, however. There are pockets of excellence across the U.S. where student achievement is world-beating. Massachusetts eighth graders outscored their peers from every global region included, except Singapore and Taiwan, on an international science assessment in 2007. Eighth graders from Minnesota, the only other U.S. state tested, did almost as well.

What do Massachusetts and Minnesota have in common? They each have science standards that set a high bar for what students are expected to learn at each grade level. Such standards form the scaffolding on which educators write curricula and teachers plan lessons, and many experts believe them to be closely linked with student achievement.

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