Urban Students Lag in Science Learning: Study

Lauren Keiper, Reuters, Feb. 28, 2011

Students in schools in the largest U.S. cities, many from low-income households, trail their peers elsewhere in the country in a test of science proficiency, according to a report released on Thursday.

Fourth- and eighth-graders in most of the 17 participating urban districts typically scored lower than the national average, the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress Science report showed.

“The results are shouting at us: Whatever we are doing in science education in these big city public schools, it isn’t working for the vast majority of our students,” said Alan Friedman, a member of the National Assessment Governing Board.

The analysis, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, Trial Urban District Assessment, tested between 900 and 2,200 students in each grade in school districts from San Diego to New York, including students in Atlanta and Boston public schools and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

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Demographics of the participating urban districts vary from both the national average and between districts.

Some districts report that English is not the first language of up to 40 percent of their students. Anywhere from 47 percent to 100 percent of students in the urban areas are from lower-income families, according to the report.

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The report card showed that 44 percent of fourth-graders at schools in cities with a population of at least 250,000 fall below the standard for basic proficiency in science, compared to 29 percent nationally.

At the eighth grade level 56 percent of big city public school students fell below the basic standard compared to 38 percent nationally.

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