Science grades show room for improvement

Friday, February 4, 2011; 4:50 PM

During his State of the Union address last month, President Barack Obama, a noted sports fan, said, "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated but the winner of the science fair."

Well, if a new report on science grades is any indication, some kids will have to step up their game to compete as hard for that science fair crown as the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers do for today's Super Bowl championship.

The Nation's Report Card on science - a test given to more than 300,000 fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders across the country - showed that only about a third of students had a solid understanding of concepts (called being proficient) in the physical, life, space and Earth sciences.

Students in Virginia did better than the national average, with 46 percent scoring proficient; 33 percent of Maryland fourth-graders were proficient. District students didn't take the test.

Why does having a strong science education matter so much that the president talks about it? "Science helps students further their understanding of our world," said David Driscoll, of the group that oversees the test.

So how would you do? Here's a sample question from the fourth-grade test.

Which material is the best conductor of electricity?

1. Wood

2. Metal

3. Stone

4. Plastic

Answer: Number 2 is correct; metal is the best conductor of electricity.

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