Precollege Science and Math 'Lack Focus.' (Diversity of Math and Science Teaching Methods across the US Contributing to Poor Achievement Scores Compared to Children of Other countries)(Brief Article)

By Raloff, Janet | Science News, October 19, 1996 | Go to article overview

Precollege Science and Math 'Lack Focus.' (Diversity of Math and Science Teaching Methods across the US Contributing to Poor Achievement Scores Compared to Children of Other countries)(Brief Article)


Raloff, Janet, Science News


Throughout the nation's more than 15,000 school districts, widely differing approaches to teaching science and math have emerged. Though there can be strength in diversity, a new international analysis suggests that this variability has instead contributed to lackluster achievement scores by U.S. children relative to their peers in other developed countries.

Indeed, concludes William H. Schmidt of Michigan State University in East Lansing, who led the new analysis, "no single intellectually coherent vision dominates U.S. educational practice in math or science." The reason, he told Science News, "is because the system is deeply and fundamentally flawed." The new analysis, released this week by the National Science Foundation in Arling- ton, Va., is based on data collected from about 50 nations as part of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study.

Not only do approaches to teaching science and math vary among individual U.S. communities, the report finds, but there appears to be little strategic focus within a school district's curricula, its textbooks, or its teachers' activities. This contrasts sharply with the coordinated national programs of most other countries.

On average, U.S. students study more topics within science and math than their international counterparts do. This creates an educational environment that "is a mile wide and an inch deep," Schmidt notes. …

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