Results from the Science Board
The National Science Board, which reports to the US National Science Foundation, commissioned a study on math and science education in the US. That report was released today. The National Science Board last reviewed the state of science and math education in the USA in 1983, so a fresh look was warranted. Some of the more interesting conclusions from that report:
1. The development of a single, national standard for the certification of schoolteachers in mathematics and science. Local school districts would not be required to hire only teachers who meet the certification requirement, but the federal government would provide extra money to districts that voluntarily adopted the standard, the report says.
2. Accreditors of college teacher-education programs should consider how well the programs prepare graduates to obtain the certifications, the draft recommends.
3. The document also calls for the development of a national set of standards for school curricula in mathematics and science, which the federal government would also promote through financial incentives. The No Child Left Behind Act requires each state to develop its own standards, and to begin testing students' achievement in them, starting in the 2007-8 school year.
4. Colleges could support those efforts by ensuring that the schoolteachers they graduated were prepared to teach in accordance with the national standards, the report says.
These recommendations all would seem to take us further down the road of 'teaching to a test'. I'm not sure that this is in the best interest of our educational system. I'm not opposed to testing, but I think too much reliance is placed on the testing game. Students coming out of high school are test savvy, but tend to lack skills in inductive reasoning and may even lack general skills in deductive reasoning. These students are good at repeating information back to you, but generally lack skills in making inferences based on limited datasets. Good standardized tests can test the ability of a student to make inferences, but are still limited by the ability to grade the tests in a quick fashion. Multiple choice questions are favored where only one answer is correct.
I agree that some form of a standardized test is needed to make sure that "No child is left behind", but I worry that testing encourages us to graduate a bunch of clones who are all at the same skill level (which unfortunately is too low!).