GOOD

If Schools Aren't Teaching Science, Where Will the Next Generation of Scientists Come From?

Science education is getting the shaft in the Golden State.


When President Obama launched his initiative to encourage students to embrace science and math, he said STEM fields are "more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than ever before." On the other side of the political spectrum, Florida Governor Rick Scott said recently that he wants to shift higher education funding away from liberal arts disciplines toward technology and science. But despite such broad acceptance that the nation's economy needs more professionals in the hard sciences, a new report reveals that elementary schools in the nation's most populated state are barely teaching the subject.

"Children in California’s elementary schools rarely have the opportunity to engage in high-quality science learning because the conditions that would support such opportunities are rarely in place," says Rena Dorph, a researcher at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Dorph and her colleagues found that although 90 percent of school principals and parents say science education is very important and should begin early, 40 percent of elementary teachers said they spent an hour or less per week teaching science last year. Thirteen percent taught the subject for less than 30 minutes a week.


The bulk of science instruction in California begins in fifth grade because that is the year state standardized tests begin measuring science knowledge. This means that by the time they get there, students are already behind in the fundamental science content they should know. This makes them less likely to perform well in their science classes, which discourages them from pursuing science academically or as a career.

Teachers told researchers that they love teaching science and their students enjoy it, but because of the pressure to meet federal and state accountability targets, they're forced to spend the bulk of their time teaching English and math. More than 90 percent of teachers say they have limited time to teach science, and 81 percent cited the emphasis on English language arts and math as a contributing factor.

Even if they did have time to tackle the subject, 85 percent of teachers say they haven't had any professional development in science education over the past three years. And thanks to budget cuts, 70 percent say they have limited funds to purchase the supplies they need to properly teach the content. Schools serving low-income students are hit the hardest: Only 33 percent of the state's poorest schools host science education initiatives, compared to 68 percent of schools in wealthier areas.

Although the report's scope is limited to California schools, what's happening in the Golden State isn't an anomaly. The pressure of high-stakes testing is felt nationwide, so teachers in other places are just as likely to spend all day only teaching reading and math. And with budget shortfalls predicted to cause even deeper cuts in the coming year, classrooms aren't likely to be stocked with more science resources anytime soon.

The irony is that educators, parents, and politicians agree that science education should be a priority, yet it's still not happening in our schools. If schools don't fix science education, it threatens the creation of the next generation of scientists. And that's a real problem for the American economy

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Franklin Park Library

Articles
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet