Academic journal article Science Educator

Using Middle School Test Scores to Predict Success in Ninth Grade Biology

Academic journal article Science Educator

Using Middle School Test Scores to Predict Success in Ninth Grade Biology

Article excerpt

Abstract

Success in ninth grade is essential to a student's success throughout high school. Many high schools retain the traditional science course sequence of teaching biology first to ninth graders who may or may not be cognitively ready for today's biology content. A few school districts in Georgia are offering a flexible science course sequence in the ninth grade, using test scores or other data to determine the course in which a student will be most likely to be successful. This study used regression analysis to determine whether seventh grade life science Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores are an effective predictor of success in ninth grade biology as measured by the biology End-of-Course Test (EOCT). The analysis indicated a strong positive correlation between life science CRCT scores and biology EOCT scores. The regression equation provides a method to predict students' estimated biology EOCT score and academic success in that course. This gives educators the ability to guide students to the course of science study at which they are likely to be most successful.

Keywords: academic achievement, high school biology, criterion-referenced competency test (CRCT), end-of-course test (EOCT), predicting student success, science course sequence.

Introduction

Student achievement in science is an issue that plagues our educational system. The National Science Foundation (2010) reported that high school students in the United States have fallen behind other economically advanced countries in science achievement. Although math scores have increased in the past decade, the National Science Foundation also reports that science scores have not. In high schools specifically, student achievement in science needs to be improved. In 2011, only 68% of public high school students in Georgia passed the biology End- of-Course Test (EOCT), and only 76% passed the physical science EOCT (Georgia Department of Education).

According to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), 72% of states teach biology to ninth grade students (Petrinjak, 2012) with physical science/ physics, chemistry, and science electives taught in subsequent grades. This tradition is based on the National Education Association's 1893 report from The Committee of Ten (Vasquez, 2006), that recommended natural science be taught before physics and chemistry in secondary school. Others disagree with this interpretation of the report, arguing that the different course names do not specify biology (Sheppard & Robbins, 2007). The Committee named natural science as the beginning course with zoology, botany, and physiology suggested as subsequent electives. Nonetheless, the sequence with biology first has been the foundation of secondary science course sequences throughout the years.

The recent trend of performance-based curriculum standards and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards require students to use critical thinking skills and apply knowledge to problemsolve. This is especially true in today's biology, based mainly on cellular concepts. No longer do students memorize the classification of plants and animals by rote (Lederman, 2008). Cellular and molecular concepts are difficult to relate and internalize. Egocentric adolescent students have a hard time understanding and then applying concepts that are not a part of their immediate lives (Waller, 2007).

Most ninth grade students are between the ages of 14 and 15 years. Although Piaget theorized that humans move to the formal operational stage where they can solve abstract problems or hypothetical tasks around age eleven, neuroscience and brain development studies show that the formal operational stage is being reached much later (Bessent, 2008; Rita & Martin-Dunlop, 2011; Shayer, 2008). With this information, it makes sense that ninth grade students may not be cognitively ready for the critical thinking and problem solving needed for the biology curriculum. …

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