Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Should Science Be Part of NCLB?

I know that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is not particularly popular within the gifted education community. The law definitely provides a convenient excuse for districts to divert resources from programs for advanced students -- something many seem to want to do anyway. But given that it's unlikely to be gutted, here's a different question: should science be part of NCLB?

Science teachers claim that, particularly at the elementary school level, schools have decided to spend much less time on science instruction since NCLB focuses on math and reading. On one hand, math and reading are pretty foundational, and lay the groundwork for all other subjects. Schools may be spending less time on science, but there are probably other neglected, important subjects too (like foreign languages, history, civics, etc.) that are losing time because of NCLB. Why just science?

On the other hand, broadening the standards movement to include other important subjects has upsides too, and science is certainly an important one. What is measured gets taught. The only way that some schools will start doing lab experiments with young kids is if they know it matters to their bottom lines and reputations. But will standardized tests actually cover scientific knowledge? Hard to know! I'm curious what readers of this blog think.


atxteacher said...

Some might argue that science is more important due to the focus on STEM for global competition. I have trouble favoring science over history or foreign language. Reading and math skills are necessary for success in every other discipline, so the argument for them alone to be the basis of accountability is very logical. It would be very difficult to be very successful in science without success in reading and math. If science is added to accountability, the other important subjects will get even less time.

Anonymous said...

It is a long school day. Probably 4 hours on reading and math in our elementary. 1.5 hours daily math leaves 2.5 for writing, reading, and language arts. In that time, the kids don't learn grammar or the usual things I think of as reading and math. Maybe a study needs to be done on the optimal amount of time needed per subject for mastery.

Twin Mom said...

Science should be part of standards in middle school and high school but not elementary. Elementary school students lack the background to really learn science (remembering covering biomes year after year?) but high school students need it. Math standards should include statistics, not just the standard algebra-geometry sequences. Mathematical illiteracy is most apparent in the general population's inability to appropriately question statistics.

cranberry said...

No, science should not be part of NCLB. "What gets tested, gets taught." True--so the nation's science instruction for elementary and middle school students would be transformed into test prep for multiple-choice tests, and short essay answers. Science is the best subject to encourage students to perform experiments, to observe the physical world. With the pressures of NCLB, much of that would vanish. It would be reduced to memorizing textbooks tailored to the state tests.

At the high school level, students who take science seriously take the SAT IIs. I don't see any advantage in adding a state science test. Requiring schools to expand their science offerings so that all students are able to take sciene classes would be more productive.

Finally, all the testing takes time, especially if you add in the practice tests performed in class. At some point, the public schools would need to lengthen the school calendar, to make up for the time lost to testing.

hschinske said...

I think reading instruction should include lots of nonfiction reading techniques, which means bringing in lots of good nonfiction, including science. Not a substitute for hands-on science, of course, but one way to get a lot of information in front of the students' eyes.

Helen Schinske

'Nother Barb said...

Interesting timing. Our Gifted coordinator is working on a middle school science option that would be ideal for gifted students, but students don't have to be accepted into the gifted program (LA and/or math) to enroll. It would possibly involve deeper involvement in an area or a faster pace. It is still in the works. But, if Science were part of NCLB, would we lose the incentive to do something like this? Maybe. And, would yet more time be spent testing, less time spent getting really absorbed in science?

I do like the comment that reading should incorporate science. For young readers, there is even fiction that incorporates science, and history, too.


Polly and Meek said...

Hmmmm...I think science should be included. It can assist those students who think on a different playing field and open their minds to new areas of thought. Science can really cause people to tap into their creativity.

Anonymous said...

Science and history should be incorporated. They are both very important for kids to understand and master. I would add foreign language as well starting in 7th grade for those that take the class otherwise high school.

Sadly, if these subjects aren't tested they barely get taught. We need students taught history and taught it well. We need kids to understand that science is fun. And, only in America do kids NOT start learning a foreign language in kindergarten and elementary school when it so much easier for them to learn. Those schools that can fund raise and support a foreign language teacher outside of their school district provide this option. They are the exception not the rule.