Educators say science results aren’t cause for concern

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(Host) Educators say the disappointing results from this year’s statewide science assessments aren’t necessarily cause for worry.

The tests were given for the first time  in May to students in fourth, eighth and eleventh grades. Fewer than half the fourth graders tested as proficient or better. Only 26 percent of eighth graders and 25 percent of eleventh graders met the state’s grade level expectations for science.

Pat Fitzsimmons works in the assessment division of the Vermont Department of Education. She says the science tests are based on relatively new curriculum that some schools haven’t yet fully adopted.

(Fitzsimmons) If we still get these results in three years I would be concerned. But I really have confidence. We have many amazing science teachers in Vermont and I really have confidence that they will use the data to recognize their strengths as well as build on those areas that need improvement.

(Host) Fitzsimmons says the new standards call for students to learn to gather information and think like scientists. Bill Eschholz is an award-winning science teacher at Mount Mansfield Union High School. He says some science classes are still just learning facts.

(Eschholz) And you know we’ve got to expand that and do some more inquiry and get the kids to critically analyze what they’re doing. We’ve got a river right down the road from us and we can get the kids doing labs, collecting data that means something to them. We got kids that might not necessarily think of themselves as a science students but they’re fishermen. And all of a sudden they make the connection, "hey, the water quality in this brook is going to affect whether or not I’m going to catch trout."

(Host) Eschholz says that kind of thinking will make students more informed citizens, whether they become scientists or not.

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