Eighth-grade students’ academic achievement has a larger impact on their readiness for college by the end of high school then anything that happens academically in today’s high schools. – ACT
Why isn’t science taught every day in Community Consolidated School District 15’s elementary schools? It shouldn’t be a question of money. The textbooks and skilled teaching staff are already in place. Private schools in the area teach both science and history daily. Why not District 15?
As reported earlier this year, the district is exploring the possibility of creating a STEM Academy for select sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. The administration is expected to present its research on best practices in STEM education and a proposal to create an academy to the Board of Education at its Sept. 14meeting.
STEM is commonly defined as preparing students to be competent and skilled in the four disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. A successful STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and is an essential part of 21st century teaching and learning.
And it should be available to ALL students – not a select few, not in a taxpayer funded public school district charged with delivering a world-class education to its students.
Seventh and eighth grade students in D-15 do receive instruction in science and history every day as well as reading, writing and mathematics. Its junior highs have fully equipped science labs where students are involved in first-hand exploration and investigation and inquiry skills can be nurtured – for those two years.
But it’s not enough – and results from the eighth grade ACT-aligned EXPLORE science test prove it. Only one-third of D-15 students from the Class of 2011 enrolling in Township High School District 211 are on track to achieve a college-readiness science score on the ACT later in high school.
The EXPORE Science test measures a student’s scientific reasoning skills and their ability to understand scientific information and draw conclusions from it. Not how well they can recall scientific facts or their skills in mathematics or reading.
Naturally, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) supports the notion that inquiry science must be a basic in the daily curriculum of every elementary school student at every grade level.
In a position statement dating back to 2002, they cite numerous reports highlighting the importance of early experiences in science so that students develop problem-solving skills that empower them to participate in an increasingly scientific and technological world.
So instead of investing scarce financial resources to establish an academy to serve at most a few hundred students, would it make more sense to teach science every day to every elementary student in D-15?
It could be a good place to start to close the achievement gap among the district’s four junior high schools. Plum Grove Junior High in Rolling Meadows draws the majority of its students from Hunting Ridge, Pleasant Hill and Frank C. Whiteley elementary schools. Approximately 44 percent of its most recent graduates are on track for college-readiness in science.
Data shows Sundling Junior High second at 32 percent, followed by Carl Sandburg Junior High with roughly 29 percent and Winston Campus Junior High at about 23 percent. Only Carl Sandburg students enrolling in a D-211 school were included in the results.
It is true that science benchmarks are higher on the EXPLORE and ACT tests because only a small percentage of college students take a science course in their first year of college. It is also true that the majority of those students are enrolled in math and science related degrees.
Should D-15 be concerned that its students are not meeting this benchmark?
How many of its graduates are prepared to take advantage of accelerated and Advanced Placement science classes in high school? How many then go on to enroll in math and science related degrees in college? Would there be more if science was taught every day in every elementary school?
Perhaps this was a topic discussed by the Board of Education and administration at its retreat this week. Maybe strengthening the science curriculum for all students will become a reality in D-15.
What are your thoughts on the subject?