"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Science and Urban Children

No doubt national testocrats will use the following piece as some kind of twisted justification to argue for national standards (science and otherwise) and national testing. Would those same educational standardistas argue for policy measures to end poverty in urban America, rather than some half-measure to exacerbate the stupidification of America's children? I think not, since those standardistas who aren't whores for the testing industry are so enamored by the myth that schools can end the achievement gap, they would never even consider the fact that there is little that schools can do alone to change the reality that poor kids are behind other kids in science and every other subject. (It will be be interesting to see how Austin, TX has managed to be different--I wonder if it has anything to do with a policy of economic integration.) Anybody know what's going on there?

At least half of eighth graders tested in science failed to demonstrate even a basic understanding of the subject in 9 of 10 major cities, and fourth graders, the only other group tested, fared little better, according to results released here Wednesday.

The outcome of those tests, part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the nation’s report card, showed that student performance in urban public schools was not only poor but also far short of science scores in the nation as a whole.

Half or a little more of the eighth-grade students in Charlotte, San Diego and Boston lacked a basic grasp of science.

In six of the other cities — New York, Houston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Atlanta — the share of eighth graders without that knowledge was even higher, ranging from about three-fifths in New York to about four-fifths in Atlanta. By comparison, the corresponding share for the nation as a whole was 43 percent.

Among the 10 cities, only in Austin were the eighth graders who lacked a basic understanding in the minority, and just barely there.

“It’s a national disgrace,” said Rodger W. Bybee, director of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, which develops and evaluates science curriculums and promotes the teaching of science. “We as a nation should be able to do better than that.” . . .

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