I’ve received a few e-mails in response to my earlier post about 2008 science FCAT results. One person suggested that we take a look at those counties with school boards that passed formal resolutions against the teaching of evolution. Below is each of those county’s 2008 Level 3 and above (on grade level and better) percentages per grade, with the 2007 results in paranthesises for comparison. This is by no means an attempt at a detailed analysis. The student populations vary from county to county quite a bit. And I’m sure there are other factors to consider.
Some counties look fine. Clay, Nassau, St. Johns counties are kicking butt. But there are some eye-popping bad things going on, too. What is the deal with Hamilton county? They were awful last year and did even worse this year. Madison county doesn’t look much better. The performance of Taylor and Washington 5th graders plummeted. Both 11th and 5th graders in Jackson county are hurting.
11th: 38(37), 8th: 40(38), 5th: 43(42)
11th: 32(38), 8th: 39(38), 5th: 34(37)
11th: 38(40), 8th: 44(42), 5th: 44(44)
11th: 43(41), 8th: 45(44), 5th: 55(51)
11th: 10(11), 8th: 19(28), 5th: 26(29)
11th: 38(33), 8th: 37(30), 5th: 42(31)
11th: 29(35), 8th: 37(33), 5th: 37(42)
11th: 30(27), 8th: 29(30), 5th: 36(37)
11th: 20(26), 8th: 20(14), 5th: 23(23)
11th: 35(37), 8th: 45(42), 5th: 50(51)
11th: 32(30), 8th: 30(31), 5th: 35(34)
11th: 54(56), 8th: 55(58), 5th: 55(58)
11th: 29(25), 8th: 33(37), 5th: 26(48)
11th: 37(38), 8th: 32(36), 5th: 27(40)
Another person e-mailed me to point out that science scores aren’t going to make many leaps forward unless the same effort that was pumped into reading education in the past is pumped into science education now. Last year, the Miami Herald’s columnist Fred Grimm wrote about how the science FCAT sank oodles of schools’ grades. Gerry Meisels, University of South Florida professor of chemistry and director of the Coalition for Science Literacy, was featured in that column as a driving force behind getting science FCATs to matter. Besides Meisels’ Coalition, there is also the Florida Center for Research on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (FCR-STEM) led by Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Dr. Harold Kroto, a professor in the FSU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. There is also Florida PROMiSE, and, of course, we here at Florida Citizens for Science. So, there is no shortage of organizations and people interested in making science education in Florida a priority. Unfortunately, it takes more than that. It takes money. It takes politicians focsing attention on the problems. Combine money woes and politicians in bad economic times and you get … nothing.
What are some problems? The e-mailer told me: “Of course, the difficulty of improving science education is compounded by the fact that while nearly all teachers can read, an alarmingly large number of science teachers do not have a deep understanding of their subjects.” Not only do we need to educate the students, but we also need to educate the teachers.