Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

No Surge Seen in High School Seniors' Science Proficiency

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

No Surge Seen in High School Seniors' Science Proficiency

Article excerpt

Racial and gender gaps in science proficiency have narrowed modestly amid overall improvements at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels since 2009, but not much of a change has taken place among Americas high school seniors, national results released last month show.

While officials attributed the improvements at the elementary and middle school-levels to students, parents and teachers laboring away at a time of greater focus on science by the Obama administration, they suggested the stagnation among the nations high school seniors is likely due to minority groups not doing as well as their White peers in science.

They also said that the high school seniors who took the latest national assessment did not benefit from initiatives in science education undertaken under the Obama administration when they were in elementary school, but those future high school seniors who did benefit from those initiatives during their elementary and middle school years will do better on the next assessment.

Such were some of the conclusions drawn about the nations report card--part of an assessment formally known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP--released in October by the National Assessment Governing Board.

"Improving educational outcomes is a long-term investment," U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a phone conference with reporters.

"It's not surprising that you would see gains in the fourth and eighth grades," King said. "The current 12th graders that took this last assessment had already gone through their elementary education by the time we made some of these important STEM investments. That may be a factor here."

King was referring to efforts such as the "Educate to Innovate" initiative, launched by the Obama administration in 2009 to improve math and science achievement over the next decade.

To date, the effort has garnered more than $700 million in public-private partnerships, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

King also touted the administrations "Race to the Top" as one of several competitions for federal grants that have prioritized STEM teaching and learning, and the lOOKinlO initiative--prompted by Obama's call to produce and develop 100,000 STEM teachers by the year 2021.

"We are only partway down the path of these many initiatives," said John P. Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

He included in his remarks such initiatives as "Computer Science for All," a federally led initiative to teach computer science to all students, and ConnectED, a federal initiative to connect 99 percent of Americas students to high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries by 2018. …

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