Arizona among “middling” states in bio education

May 26, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

Taking the Pulse of Bioscience Education in America: A State by State Analysis

Source: Battelle Technology Partnership Practice

Measures of student achievement nationally suggest that states are not measuring up in terms of overall science and life science education.  States across America are failing to prepare students for pursuing biosciences in higher education – a key pipeline for developing the bioscience workforce of the future. This report is the first ever comprehensive study of middle and high school bioscience education in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

The findings of this document demonstrate a wide disparity across measures of student achievement in overall science and biosciences, and an uneven record across states in incorporating the biosciences in state science standards, supporting focused bioscience education programs and higher level bioscience courses and ensuring well-qualified science and bioscience teachers. Wide disparities exist among states in student performance in the biosciences and broader sciences.

This review of state activities in bioscience education suggests a number of actions that should be taken, including the following:

• States should incorporate biotechnology as they revise their science standards and should involve research scientists with expertise in the biosciences in their development.

• States must commit to improving student achievement in biology and the life sciences and ensuring that their high school graduates are ready to pursue college-level bioscience courses.

• States should do a better job of collecting and disseminating data to track student participation and performance in the biosciences and the broader sciences.

• States should take a more systematic approach to teacher professional development, experiential learning, and career awareness. 8th and 12th grade students are performing poorly in science achievement and have shown no improvement over time ccording to the most recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The report provides the following evidence that states are not measuring up:

• On average, only 28% of the high school students taking the ACT, which is a national standardized test for college admission, reached a score indicating college readiness for biology and no state reached even 50%.

• Only 52% of 12th graders are at or above a basic level of achievement in the sciences, and for 8th graders only 57% are at a basic level of achievement.

• Average scores for 12th graders in the sciences have actually declined from 1996 to 2005 and shown no improvement for 8th graders both on overall and the life science component.

• A significant gap exists in science achievement for low-income middle-school students, although the gap is slowly narrowing.