Kansas headed for another debate over evolution

The first draft of the multi-state standards declares that evolution and its underlying mechanisms are "key to understanding both the unity and the diversity of life on Earth."

Kansas is headed toward another debate over how evolution is taught in its public schools, with a State Board of Education member saying June 1 that science standards under development are “very problematic” because they describe the theory as a well-established, core scientific concept.

From 1999 to 2007, the state had five different sets of science standards for its schools as conservative Republicans gained and lost majorities on the board, which sets the guidelines. The debates attracted international attention—and some ridicule—before the latest standards, which reflect mainstream scientific views about evolution, were adopted five years ago.

Kansas is now among 26 states helping to draft new science standards alongside the National Research Council, with the goal of creating standard, nationwide guidelines. A first draft became public last month, and the Kansas board is scheduled to hear an update on June 12.…Read More

Study: Eighth-grade students still lag in science

Just 31 percent of students were considered proficient or better on the test.

Eighth-graders in the U.S. are doing slightly better in science than they were two years ago, but seven out of 10 still are not considered proficient, the federal government said May 10. What’s more, just 2 percent have the advanced skills that could lead to careers in the field.

The information comes from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, released by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The average score was 152, up from 150 in 2009.

Gerry Wheeler, interim head of the National Science Teachers Association, said the results showed “minuscule gains” in student achievement in science.…Read More

Inquiry-based approach to science a hit with students

John Scali's honors chemistry class has students solve problems like real scientists.

John Scali’s class at Concord High School in Wilmington, Del., doesn’t look like your typical honors chemistry class.

Sure, the periodic table is prominently displayed in the room and lab tables dominate the space, but there’s something different going on here. You know it because there are students all over the room and they’re feverishly working together in small groups to complete their work.

They aren’t just learning science, they’re engaging in it. And they’re doing so in innovative ways.…Read More

Fewer than half of students proficient in science

Only 1 percent of high school seniors demonstrated advanced science skills in the 2009 NAEP.

The nation’s students are still struggling in science, with fewer than half considered proficient and just a tiny fraction showing the advanced skills that could lead to careers in science and technology, according to results from a national exam released Jan. 25.

Only 1 percent of fourth-grade and 12th-grade students, and 2 percent of eighth-graders, scored in the highest group on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a federal test known as the Nation’s Report Card.

“Our ability to create the next generation of U.S. leaders in science and technology is seriously in danger,” said Alan Friedman, former director of the New York Hall of Science, and a member of the board that oversees the test.…Read More

New Titanic expedition will create 3D map of wreck

A team of scientists will launch an expedition to the Titanic next month to assess the deteriorating condition of the world’s most famous shipwreck and create a detailed three-dimensional map that will “virtually raise the Titanic” for the public, reports the Associated Press. The expedition to the site two-and-a-half miles beneath the North Atlantic is billed as the most advanced scientific mission to the Titanic wreck since its discovery 25 years ago. The 20-day expedition is to leave St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Aug. 18 under a partnership between RMS Titanic Inc., which has exclusive salvage rights to the wreck, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. The expedition will not collect artifacts but will probe a 2-by-3-mile debris field where hundreds of thousands of artifacts remain scattered. Some of the world’s most frequent visitors to the site will be part of the expedition, along with a who’s who of underwater scientists and organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Organizers say the new scientific data and images ultimately will be accessible to the public. “For the first time, we’re really going to treat it as an archaeological site with two things in mind,” said David Gallo, an expedition leader and Woods Hole scientist. “One is to preserve the legacy of the ship by enhancing the story of the Titanic itself. The second part is to really understand what the state of the ship is.”

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Survey: Educators aren’t discussing STEM careers with students

Students say they aren't getting the STEM guidance they need.
Teachers say they don't have the time or the resources to discuss STEM career options with their students.

In a recent survey, a majority of students said that while their science and math teachers seem knowledgeable and keep class interesting, they aren’t teaching about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) career options. High school students also said they don’t believe STEM knowledge is integral to getting a good job, which doesn’t bode well for leaders counting on STEM education to keep the nation at the forefront of the global economy.

Spurred by the Obama administration’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign—a nationwide effort by U.S. companies, foundations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations to help move America to the top of the pack in math and science education—the American Society for Quality (ASQ) commissioned market research firm Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey to uncover how well teachers transfer their knowledge and passion for science and math to their students and inspire them to pursue STEM careers.

The survey, conducted in December, asked more than a thousand students in grades 3-12 to provide a scaled report card (with grades ranging from A-F) on their science teachers’ classroom skills and activities.…Read More

Solving the STEM Education Crisis

beakersresizedAs technology becomes an integral part of the workplace, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills are no longer just “good skills” to have; they are increasingly important to a 21st-century education.

Training students for success in the STEM disciplines also is necessary if the U.S. is to remain globally competitive; recent results from the Program for International Student Assessment suggested the top-performing U.S. high school students were bested by students from at least 20 other nations in math and science.

Attracting students to the STEM disciplines is the first hurdle, and retaining student interest in these areas is the second. Solving the STEM education crisis won’t be easy—but with the generous support of Learning.com, we’ve compiled this collection of stories from our archives, along with other resources, to help you answer this challenge in your own schools.…Read More