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

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Science Testing Will Hasten Privatization Agenda

On Sunday WaPo had a story on the extra weight being added to the cudgel of NCLB: science testing. Beginning in the fall schools will be tested in math, reading, and science. Since science is one of the subjects that has been marginalized by the frantic clawing to make annual AYP increases in reading and math, we can count on thousands of new schools being added to the already-impressive lists of "public school failures" as the open onto the boulevard to school privatization.

With three hoops to jump through now instead of two, you can imagine how quickly social studies will be discarded. Children learning the democratic values associated with living in a diverse and free society based on a just Constitution? Who needs it! We need workers who can compete with the slave labor of totalitarian countries. A clip:

. . . . But starting with the 2007-08 academic year, the law requires states to test students in science. A new exam is being field-tested in Maryland this year.

"I think the test will open up some eyes," said Brian Freiss, a fifth-grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Silver Spring.

The new test catches many Maryland schools at an ebb in science instruction.

The No Child act, signed into law in 2002, requires schools to post adequate yearly progress on their way to attaining 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by 2014. Schools would have to attain 100 percent proficiency in science by 2020 under a proposed reauthorization of the law.

Some states, including California, Florida and Virginia, assess students in science at multiple grades as part of statewide testing programs. Others, including Maryland and Pennsylvania, are beginning science field tests this year. The District's school system did not respond to requests for information on its science instruction.

Last year, the Prince George's County school system restored lost classroom minutes, increasing daily science instruction from 30 minutes to 60 in the lower elementary grades and from 45 minutes to 60 in grades 4, 5 and 6. Montgomery schools are rolling out new textbooks in grades four and five as part of a curriculum overhaul. Frederick schools are field-testing fifth-grade lessons that teach specific science topics during time allotted to reading.

In a fifth-grade classroom at Garrett Park Elementary School last week, students started work on a unit called "Magnets and Motors," an exploration of magnetism, electricity and the electric motor. Students tested their magnets on earrings and braces. Ilias Katsifis, 11, announced to classmates that if a magnet is set against the face of his watch, "it stops time."

Before the No Child act, 45 minutes to an hour of daily science instruction was common in fifth-grade Maryland classrooms, said Mary Thurlow, science coordinator for the State Department of Education.

These days, Freiss, at Highland Elementary, is allotted 30 to 45 minutes daily to teach both social studies and science, which is typical for schools in the region.

"It's definitely not as much as I would like," Freiss said.

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