Thursday, February 9, 2012

State's science teachers make South Carolina look good

It's a tough job -- making South Carolina look good in the eyes of the nation, given our elected leaders, our high national rankings in bad things and low rankings in good things, and especially our desire to keep citizens separated into first-, second- and third-class categories -- but our science teachers get it done.

According to a Fordham Institute report, "The State of State Science Standards 2012," the work done by South Carolina's science teachers to create state standards for instruction in science places us among the top five states in the nation.

Folks, send the link to this post far and wide, share it with friends and neighbors, and be sure to pat your local science teachers on the back. This is likely the last place you'll see any notice of this news; you can be confident that neither Governor Nikki Haley nor Superintendent Mick Zais will put out a press release or come close to praising our public school educators for their hard work.

According to a news report, the Fordham Institute,

gave each state a report card based on two main factors regarding science education standards; content & rigor and clarity & specificity.

South Carolina received six out of seven points for content and rigor, and a perfect three out of three points for clarity and specificity. The combined score of nine out of 10 points gave South Carolina an A- grade.

Only three other states received an A-, and California was the only state to receive an A.

The report actually says that the District of Columbia also earned an A, but it's not a state. If it were a moon base with at least 13,000 residents, and if Newt Gingrich were in a second term as president, then Moonbase Washington DC could petition to become a state. But since it's got more than 600,000 people, most of whom are liberal, it's not a state.

That leaves California to earn the only A for its science standards, with A- going to -- drum roll -- Indiana, Massachusetts and South Carolina.

When was the last time you saw South Carolina and Massachusetts in the same category for anything?

The report states, "South Carolina provides science standards that are clear and succinct, but that also outline most of the essential K-12 content that students need to learn."

The state's standards were praised in many areas for building concepts from one grade level to the next from kindergarten through high school; however, high school chemistry was said to "often lack the detail and clarity of the best state standards."

In life science, one of the sections reviewed within the content and rigor category, the report notes, “the coverage of evolution is occasionally evasive.” While evolution is “treated excellently” at the high school level, eighth-grade standards raise concepts of evolution without even using the term.

I see exactly how this happened. Any time "evolution" is involved, lawmakers get involved, and the fear of crossing our lawmakers may have led some decision-makers to water down some standards.

Conclusion: If not for our lawmakers in south Carolina, we might have earned a solid A, alongside California.

Still, the report concludes,

"South Carolina has produced a set of workmanlike standards of consistent, high quality. Most disciplines cover all of the essential content with admirable thoroughness and attention to detail. Concepts develop over the advancing grades with clear and logical progression. This laudably systematic treatment reveals a firm scaffold upon which educators in the Palmetto State can build a science curriculum."

Great work, science teachers. With your clarity, focus and diligence, you'll get us there one day, whether we like it or not.

Thanks for the work you do every day.

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