Science: What gets tested gets taught
Photo by Adam Baker
Since the MAP is including science now, schools are increasing their focus on teaching science although I’m not sure they have enough.
All of this comes as economic and education experts worry about U.S. global competitiveness.
Missouri needs to increase its state requirements for graduation. All students need to take biology, chemistry and physics (not necessarily in that order). Students graduating in 2010 are required to take three years (same as math and history), which is an increase from the currently required two years. I think all students should take four years of all four core subjects. Most schools don’t require physics, but the concepts are essential in science and can be taught to all. (See previous post on teaching physics first.)
For example, Hazelwood currently requires students to take Physical Systems and Chemical Systems, each a semester course. Then students are required to take biology for a year. This includes students with a College Prep designation on their diploma. With the requirement increase, students are then required to add another year of science of their choice. Only one semester of chemistry? They offer a full year of chemistry but don’t require it. This is not enough science for people competing with other countries for jobs and deciding on the direction of science via elections.
Francis Howell currently requires a year of physical science and a year of biology. Chemistry and physics are optional.
Elementary schools need to increase the emphasis on science and integrate science with math and reading.
MRH, which has a helpful curriculum online, does not include science K-5. Is it not important enough?
Rockwood does include a grade-by-grade detailed list of its science curriculum starting at the K level. It also puts on a Science Expo at the beginning of the year to stir up excitement and let the students and parents know of science resources available in St. Louis.
Mehlville doesn’t include the detail that Rockwood does, but it gives an easy to decipher overview of the content covered in each grade, the name of the textbook used (!) and suggested resources and activities for families. As an educator I like the Rockwood detail, but the Mehlville overview is definitely more readable. I would like districts to include both.
I looked at the 2008 MAP 5th grade science scores comparing median MAP scale scores. None of the top 10 in the state were in the St. Louis metropolitan area, but none of them had more than 27 students taking the test, so I narrowed my list to districts in the metropolitan area, including charter schools. The top school districts were not surprising, but I was intrigued by some of the districts on the list such as Washington, Windsor and Fox. Parkway was 16th. Union and Festus were 11 and 12.
I then searched to see if the same districts had the highest number of students scoring at the advanced level.
|ORCHARD FARM R-V||22.9|
|JEFFERSON CO. R-VII||20.2|
Most of the districts were the same with Orchard Farm joining the list and Windsor falling to 11. Parkway moved up to 12.
Sorting by median Terra Nova scores shuffled the districts a bit bringing New Haven (Franklin Co. R-II) into the top.
|FRANKLIN CO. R-II||77.0|
Rockwood comes out on top in every configuration. Whether it is the Science Expo, detailed expectations or another reason altogether, the elementary schools there come ahead.
I’ll be interested to watch whether this new focus on science raises everyone’s scores.