Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education United States Science

Only 22% of California 8th Graders Pass National Science Test 580

Posted by Soulskill
from the above-the-mendoza-line dept.
bonch writes "22 percent of California eighth-graders passed a national science test, ranking California among the worst in the U.S. according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The test measures knowledge in Earth and space sciences, biology, and basic physics. The states that fared worse than California were Mississippi, Alabama, and a tie between the District of Columbia and Hawaii. 'Nationally, 31 percent of eighth-graders who were tested scored proficient or advanced. Both the national and state scores improved slightly over scores from two years ago, the last time the test was administered.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Only 22% of California 8th Graders Pass National Science Test

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:42AM (#39967545)

    Are known to the state of California to cause cancer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by X0563511 (793323)

      That would explain why you feel the subject is an appropriate field to place body text.

  • Makes no sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:43AM (#39967585)

    I can see states like Mississippi, Alabama doing poorly because they are run by Republicans and republicans hate spending money on kids. (Yes I just heard a guy on MSNBC say that last night.) But California is a Democrat-run state. Their students should be the best and brightest and most well-funded. Like Democrat-run Maryland. Hmmmm.

    (Note: I'm being sarcastic. I think Democrats suck just as badly as Republicans. None of them know how to run anything.... not the schools, not the MVA, not the Amtrak, nor the post office.)

    • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:47AM (#39967633) Homepage

      Of course, you're assuming that test competency is a good thing. That assumes the test is fair, reasonable and actually has something to do with the student's knowledge base. Given what we know about standardized tests, a bit of skepticism is in order.

      That said, the bottom feeders being the states we assume to be be bottom feeders when it comes to anything other than actually eating does give one pause.

      • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Americano (920576) on Friday May 11, 2012 @01:22PM (#39969037)

        Test competency in the sciences for an 8th grader probably is a good thing. From the article:

        Students were asked to identify chemically similar elements on the periodic table, name a function of the human organ system and explain the effects of human land use on wildlife. [...] In California, eighth-grade students are only taught in physical science, not in Earth or space sciences – another reason why they would struggle more, officials said.

        I have trouble believing that questions like these are somehow unreasonable, unfair, or biased against black/hispanic/asian kids, or somehow socioeconomically biased. These are fairly basic science questions, and there are some fairly clear boundaries between right and wrong answers. If your kid cannot answer these questions after taking courses which are supposed to teach the answers to these questions, I think it's safe to say that there's a rather large disconnect between the educational system's goals and its outcomes.

        We can argue the merits of standardized testing, and "teaching to the test" until the cows come home, but if your school system has adopted the test as a measurement criteria, and structured its curriculum around that test, and still achieves remarkably low results... something is wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bonch (38532) *

      I don't think Democrats versus Republicans is a relevant issue. California's scores may be skewed by poor test scores in large urban areas, which the superintendent touched on in the article, and that's a hot-button issue no politician seems to be willing to tackle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Moheeheeko (1682914)
      You are leaving out the fact that untill about a year ago Calironia was actually run by Republicans. With the exception of the bay area and LA, California actually votes republican (not saying Democrats are any better, just pointing out the data).
      • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Idbar (1034346) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:53AM (#39967753)
        Just checked the partial list:

        Rank State %
        1 Massachusetts 44
        1 Montana 44
        1 North Dakota 44
        4 Utah 43

        I'm not republican or democrat... but perhaps the data really requires a more careful analysis rather than just pointing fingers to the other side.

        • Re:Makes no sense (Score:4, Interesting)

          by swx2 (2632091) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:17PM (#39968119)
          While i'm from MA, and I'm quite happy that my state is tied for first... but... 44%????? Only 44% of the kids tested passed the test, and it somehow tie for FIRST among the nation? If this was a test, then all 50 people (state) in the class (country) have failed. This is not good news :/
        • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Informative)

          by scubamage (727538) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:21PM (#39968159)
          This paragraph is important:

          The exams measure knowledge and understanding of physical, life, Earth and space sciences. Students were asked to identify chemically similar elements on the periodic table, name a function of the human organ system and explain the effects of human land use on wildlife. In California, eighth-grade students are only taught in physical science, not in Earth or space sciences – another reason why they would struggle more, officials said.

          So, basically there isn't a nationally recognized standard for sciences, so the test is really not remotely fair.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Yeah wtf are they doing testing their science skills with science questions. That's well out of order.
        • by gtall (79522)

          Go get the actual results from the The Nation's Report Card web site, get the .pdf version, the on-line crap is enough to make anyone stop learning. Most of the scores appear to be about 27 points within each other...except for the District of Columbia, it appears to be a full 40 points below everyone else. I'm unsure what the point system actually means.

          (A quick scan, might have missed something from the fine print show) the top score is 164, N. Dakota. The bottom of the 50 states is 137, Mississippi. The

          • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

            by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:38PM (#39968395)

            The Unions are the problem that stop advancement.

            They are more interested in protecting their jobs, than making changes that help the students (such as firing bad teachers, or eliminating permanent employment via tenure). You can see the excellent ABC 20/20 documentary called "Stupid in America" on youtube. There's also a sequel produced for FOX which updates the older 20/20 report. And then a "part 3" sequel to the sequel.

            • Re:Makes no sense (Score:4, Insightful)

              by tbannist (230135) on Friday May 11, 2012 @02:08PM (#39969985)

              Well the unions are made up of teachers, so obviously the problem with schools is the teachers. The solution must be to get rid of all the teachers and surely grades will improve? Unions may or may not be part of the problem, but they're hardly *the* problem. Most teachers want their students to succeed. It reflects well on them and means one of the largest choices they've ever made in their life has actual meaning.

              Unions are probably part of the problem, but it's more likely to actually be the poor relationship between the school administration and the union and it generally takes two sides to feud. Of course, that relationship might be soured by a lack of resources provided to the school by the region or state.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You are leaving out the fact that untill about a year ago Calironia was actually run by Republicans. With the exception of the bay area and LA, California actually votes republican (not saying Democrats are any better, just pointing out the data).

        That must explain why California's electoral votes have gone Democrat for like 30+ years.

        So, except for the multiple decades of a significant majority of the population who vote for Democrats, a Democrat Governer, and a Democrate-controlled Legislature, it's the Republican's fault?

        Dude, did you brain wake up today?

      • Re:Makes no sense (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:03PM (#39967905) Journal

        You are leaving out the fact that untill about a year ago Calironia was actually run by Republicans. With the exception of the bay area and LA, California actually votes republican (not saying Democrats are any better, just pointing out the data).

        Put down the crack pipe. The California state legislature has been Democrat since I can remember. The last time their electoral college went to a Republican was 1988. Schwarzenegger was the Governor, but he was far from being a right-winger and often called a RINO. Except for a small 2 year period, Democrats have controlled the State Senate for years. And LA and the Bay Area make up a majority of the POPULATION of California. Not necessarily the land area.

      • Really? You mean Democratic state majorities in both legislative houses dating back to at least the Gray Davis administration were figments of my imagination? And, whew, that Arnold Schwarzenegger! What a government cutter [taxfoundation.org]!

      • by perpenso (1613749)

        You are leaving out the fact that untill about a year ago Calironia was actually run by Republicans. With the exception of the bay area and LA, California actually votes republican (not saying Democrats are any better, just pointing out the data).

        No. The state senate has been democrat controlled for 42 years and the state assembly for 40 of 42 years. The legislature "runs" the state, particularly in the area of education, not the governor.

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      On the other hand, you have states like N/S Dakota, Montana, and Utah which would traditionally be classified as Red states at the top of the list....

    • My kid is in the fourth grade, each day I send him off to school I feel like I'm pimping him out. They almost always have some fundraiser packet that I'm suppose to devote my personal time taking my kid out and try to sell nonsensical bullshit to strangers. Since that isn't happening, the shit gets thrown away. Use the the money that they have, on the things that matter most and they would find that they have plenty of money to spend.
    • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:53AM (#39967739) Homepage Journal

      I can see states like Mississippi, Alabama doing poorly because they are run by Republicans and republicans hate spending money on kids. (Yes I just heard a guy on MSNBC say that last night.) But California is a Democrat-run state. Their students should be the best and brightest and most well-funded. Like Democrat-run Maryland. Hmmmm.

      (Note: I'm being sarcastic. I think Democrats suck just as badly as Republicans. None of them know how to run anything.... not the schools, not the MVA, not the Amtrak, nor the post office.)

      Not only is it a statement on the fallacy of the superiority of "progressive" regimes in schooling, but in funding as well. Utah spends far, far less per pupil, and gets much better results. Success in education comes from, first and foremost, an appreciation of getting an education, and second, the willingness to work for it. You'll get better results with a single, good teacher with nothing but a piece of chalk and a chalkboard, teaching a class of eager students, then you will with any expensive computerized, state of the art classroom that's been staffed with some guy waiting for his retirement age and a class of kids that don't give a damn.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Until 2010, Democrats had had a majority in the Alabama Senate and House for 136 years. htttp://blog.al.com/live/2010/11/republicans_historic_alabama_majority.html According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Governors_of_Alabama), Alabama had two Republican governors following Reconstruction, but after the Democratic Party re-established control, 112 years passed before voters chose another Republican. Alabama may have many problems but the Democrats have had plenty of time in control of
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tompaulco (629533)
      I can see states like Mississippi, Alabama doing poorly because they are run by Republicans and republicans hate spending money on kids. (Yes I just heard a guy on MSNBC say that last night.)
      Oh, well if it was on MSNBC then it must be true. /sarcasm
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      California: 57% white
      Mississippi: 59% white
      Alabama: 68% white
      D.C.: 38% white
      Hawaii: 24% white


      Massachusetts: 80% white
      Montana: 89% white
      North Dakota: 90% white
      Utah: 86% white
    • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Informative)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:58AM (#39967837) Homepage

      Some relevant data here (per pupil spending):
      US average - $10499
      Alabama - $8870
      California - $9657
      Mississippi - $8075

      You'd be surprised, but California is really not spending a lot on their kids either. The places that are spending a lot:
      DC - $16408
      New Jersey - $16271
      New York - $18126
      Alaska - $15552
      Vermont - $15175

      Source: US Census [census.gov].

      • Re:Makes no sense (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:18PM (#39968123)
        Note that, from TFS, DC did even worse than California.
      • Re:Makes no sense (Score:5, Informative)

        by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:25PM (#39968225) Homepage

        You imply that spending more would help. Let's have a look at the ranks of the states you mention, and add in their rank (by average score on the science exam):

        Alabama $8870 - rank 49
        California $9657 - rank 47
        Mississippi $8075 - rank 50

        DC $16408 - rank 51 (by a *huge* margin)
        New Jersey $16271 - rank 24
        New York $18126 - rank 34
        Alaska $15552 - rank 26
        Vermont $15175 - rank 3

        North Dakota and Montana, with the best results, both spend less than average amounts per pupil.

        There are plenty of studies that show that throwing money at schools does not help. The single best thing you can do to improve most schools is to hire good teachers and fire bad ones. There is a strong *inverse* correlation between states with good education and states with strong teachers' unions. California is a prime example, as is New York (rank 34 on the list).

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        That is $53.67 a day. That is a lot of money when you consider that there are 15 (those that argue schools are poor will deny this number) to 30 students per teacher. Then add the federal funding, and you can see that money is not the issue.
  • At that low of a %, they are only "among the worst"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:45AM (#39967609)

    Refer to Einstein's famous quip.

    This news will undoubtedly be used as the basis for calls to shovel more money into a broken system despite decades of funding increases failing to show results, all the while modest Chinese budgets are sufficient for creating public K-12 education which outranks us.

    The public schools have become a jobs program contaminated by labor politics.

    We can't reward success without screaming from those who fear being held accountable for their failures.

    We can't make better use of technology and automated learning because of perennial votes for make-work teaching positions.

    The whole thing stinks, the public doesn't understand the system stinks, and poison politics will prevent the problems from being corrected.

    • by w_dragon (1802458)
      Einstein also said “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” Saying China outranks the US is somewhat misleading since it rests on test scores and tests have a bad habit of measuring memorization rather than understanding. Memorization is so simple that a computer can do it, without understanding what is memorized you can never push back the boundaries of our understanding. Richard Feynman had a good article on this with respect to Brazil: http://v.cx/2010/04/feynman-brazil-e [v.cx]
  • Make the tests easier: Everybody wins!

  • When so many Californians believe that their new electric meters are going to be giving them cancer ( http://stopsmartmeters.org/ [stopsmartmeters.org] ), this is comes as no surprise at all. Also, crystal healing and homeopathy.

  • by pantera (30229) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:50AM (#39967703) Homepage

    Can someone post the test here. I think it would be really interesting to see what percent of Slashdot readers can pass the test.

  • Competition means pressure to achieve, and that means some people won't do as well as others.

    We need school choice vouchers so some people can rescue their kids from a _permanently_ and irretrievably broken system.

    (It's heresy to admit it's broken and that given the REALITY of the public DEMANDS which broke it, that it WILL NEVER be fixed.)

    Vouchers would allow secularists who value education to rescue their offspring from the mediocrity of public schools and from frequently toxic public school students. (I

    • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:08PM (#39967999) Journal
      Vouchers aren't going to help. The public school systems aren't broken, its society that is broken. Kids who are individually motivated and have parental support will do great in any school environment. Kids who lack motivation but have parental pressure may be forced into rebellion in their later teenager years or college, but they'll at least do well in grade school. Kids who have motivation but lack parental support are the ones who are trapped in the school system, and their parents won't take advantage of things like vouchers. And the kids who lack motivation and lack parental support will eventually drop out because we have no support system for them. Any increased funding needs not go to vouchers, but instead to parental education to encourage the unmotivated parents to be more involved in their children's lives.
    • We have "vouchers" in Sweden in the form that anyone can send their kids to any school, private or public, free of charge. The only thing it has brought us is segregating the kids who do well into separate schools from everyone else. The kids who performed well didn't perform any better (though the private schools like to inflate grades in order to look more attractive to parents) and the kids who did poorly now perform worse than they did before.

      The way to improve schools IMHO is to reduce class sizes to 1

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:53AM (#39967757)

    Apple may want to stop touting that it's products are designed in California.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:53AM (#39967759)

    When California passed laws limiting property taxes, local funds for schools decreased. They were never fully replaced with state funds. The problem is, sadly, democracy driven by greed. In California, laws can be made by referendum - direct voting by the people, who voted to keep their money and to hell with the school systems. I don't blame them. I have no children and don't particularly want to pay to school any, but this is the result.

    • by sootman (158191) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:19PM (#39968139) Homepage Journal

      > I have no children and don't particularly want to pay to school any...

      That's pretty short-sighted of you. Who do you want to perform surgery on you in 30 years? Even if you're in perfect health, would you rather your neighbors be educated and employed, or uneducated, unemployed, and prone to break into houses?

      PS: Lots of people with no kids paid for your schooling...

      • No shit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 11, 2012 @01:50PM (#39969609)

        I have no children, and cannot imagine I ever will (I didn't like kids, even when I was a kid). However I gladly support taxes for education. Why? Well to put it simply I don't want to die poor. I want this nation to continue to get richer and more prosperous and for that to happen we must have an educated populace.

        There are all sorts of specifics as to why an uneducated populace would make life suck from the simple like your surgery example to the complex like social unrest and revolution due to an underclass. The long and short of it is I want none of that, I want a good life and that requires that others have a good life and THAT requires good education.

    • I have no children and don't particularly want to pay to school any,

      Then you are a damn fool. If you believe that being surrounded by utterly uneducated masses wold be a good place to live in any way, then you are deluded.

    • When California passed laws limiting property taxes, local funds for schools decreased. They were never fully replaced with state funds. The problem is, sadly, democracy driven by greed. In California, laws can be made by referendum - direct voting by the people, who voted to keep their money and to hell with the school systems.

      Except, that's not quite right. What actually happened was that property taxes were increasing roughly 20% per year. That was outrageous and some opportunists used that too hoodwink the public. The referendum that got passed froze property taxes at their current levels but required that they be re-assessed when the property was sold in order to maintain reasonable tax revenues.

      The opportunism comes in when most businesses almost immediately spun-off their real-estate holding into seperate corps. That en

    • by DinDaddy (1168147)

      Facts don't back up your assertion. I live in the northern LA county suburbs, and the $ per student in our district are about 60% what is allocated in the urban LA area because we are classified as "rural". But out schools are in the top 1% of the state. Moreover, you cannot "donate" money to the local school district as it will be taken by the state and redistributed to areas in need, so there is no extra funding coming from the relative affluence of our area.

      So tell me how my property taxes not triplin

    • by swillden (191260)

      Bah.

      Look at the top four states in the list: Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota and Utah.

      MA spends a lot, a little over $14K per pupil per year, as compared to CA's $9.6K. But MT and ND spend about the same as CA, and UT spends far less, at just over $6K per pupil. In fact, Utah is dead last in the 50 states in per pupil spending.

      It's not about the money.

      Oh, and before someone blames the immigrant population in CA, please keep in mind that other border states, especially AZ, NM and TX have simil

  • by Scareduck (177470) on Friday May 11, 2012 @11:55AM (#39967785) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    “The sample sizes for these tests are generally somewhat small to make any real sense out of them,” county Superintendent William Habermehl said. “Also, most of these students tested in California come from large urban districts, so it’s not always an accurate representation.”

    If you want to see something that is a fairer guide to academic achievement, the National Assessment of Educational Progress [nationsreportcard.gov] is a much better guide. Iowahawk used it to take down a weak argument about ACT/SAT scores [typepad.com] during the public kerfluffle about the efficacy of union vs. non-union teachers.

  • We talk talk a lot about income distribution, health stats, longevity, teen pregnacy... etc.

    Who wants to bet the 22 percent that passes the national science exam doesn't have most of these problems?

    Now, having determined that there is correlation between many different negative demographic stats. What is the cause? Really?

    Fix it.

    It isn't education because they're getting the same education as the kids that do well.

    It isn't school lunches because those are the same too.

    What is it? Go through all the correlat

  • As always... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by englishknnigits (1568303) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:20PM (#39968151)
    with tests in states like California you have to look at how many students read and speak English well. If you can barely understand the language you are going to do terrible on pretty much any test. In 2000, 40% of people in California spoke another language at home. http://www.stanford.edu/dept/csre/reports/execsum_14.pdf [stanford.edu]
    That 40% contains varying degrees of ability to speak, read, and write English but it is safe to say most of them will be at a disadvantage when taking a test in a language they are not fluent in.

    That being said, we (California) still have crappy public schools and this is still a huge problem. However, it isn't just a problem of bad science education, it is also a language barrier problem.

  • by somaTh (1154199) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:34PM (#39968335) Journal
    This isn't surprising, given that 5 out of 4 people have difficulty with fractions.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday May 11, 2012 @12:34PM (#39968337) Journal

    Until you have parents willing to (a) help their kids outside of school (b) become involved in helping their local school succeed and (c) make their children accountable for learning it won't matter what the curriculum is, how much teachers get paid, or what the facilities of the school system are like. You simply cannot spend 3-4 instructional hours a day spread over a class of students for half the year (180 days), then give them no assistance outside of that and expect any significant fraction of them to succeed.

    Yes, there are motivated students. Yes, there are fabulous teachers. Yes, coming to an open, inviting, and technologically advanced facility makes for a positive atmosphere.

    We help my daughter every night with her homework. She's just at the end of 4th grade, but there are parts of her math that my wife knows how to do, but doesn't know well enough to teach. I'm pretty lousy at my local history (I didn't grow up here, but I was never a history buff anyway). Between the two of us, she has all the tools she needs to succeed. I cringe at a couple of the kids in her class that don't get any help on their homework; it makes me feel awful for them because I know how difficult some of the concepts were for my daughter, and how we might have spent an extra hour (or three) working though problems so that she understood them. For a 9 or 10 year old confronted with a completely foreign concept and nothing but a 30 minute class discussion and two (sometimes poor) examples it's got to be frustrating beyond belief. In two years time, I expect those kids will be in the bottom groups, failing these national tests, and not caring any more because they don't have the resources to be able to make it. Don't even get me started on the kids who parents take them on mini-vacations when they get out-of-school suspension because the parents figure if they have to take off work they may as well have some fun. Or the ones who blame the teacher when their kids get poor grades.

    The problem isn't the system, or the money, or the tests...it's the parents. All the money and great teachers and fabulous facilities do is set the stage for learning. If the parents can't do their part, it will - by and large - be wasted.

  • by RandCraw (1047302) on Friday May 11, 2012 @06:36PM (#39974091)

    Look at the 10 states that did best. Almost all are rural: Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Virginia.

    Texas and Montana did better than NY or CA?

    Time to ask, 'What and who were tested?' I suspect the sample was far from uniformly distributed across all US 8th graders.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

Working...