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California, including the San Francisco Bay Area, is home to much US innovation in science and technology. Recent national reports have illuminated the importance of science education in the elementary grades and described concerns for US leadership in science,1 the importance of fostering interest in science early in life,2 and issues with promoting high quality science instruction in the elementary grades,3 nationally,4 and in California.5

At the same time, this region produces inadequate achievement results among its students. Results of the 2005 National Assessment of Education Progress 4th grade science test indicate that California ranked 2nd lowest of all states on eighth grade science achievement, only above Mississippi. During spring 2007, results on the 5th grade California Standards Test (CST) in Science indicate that only 37% of California students and approximately 46% of Bay Area students scored proficient or above6. This means that even in the Bay Area, over half the 5th graders are failing to reach proficiency in science. Analysis of these test score results alongside demographic information suggests that those students from ethnic or racial groups who have traditionally been underrepresented in science fields score lower than their peers.

The results of a study 7 examining the status of science education in Bay Area elementary schools offer some insights about why students are not performing well in science in this region. Study findings suggest two interdependent reasons for these achievement results. First, the current status of science education is weak: science education is of inconsistent and often poor quality; Bay Area schools spend too little time teaching the subject; and many teachers are unprepared to teach science. Second, the current status of the efforts to improve science education is also weak: public educational policy (national, state, and often local) does not adequately address the importance of science education and often presents structural barriers to the improvement of science instruction. Fortunately, many schools and communities would like to improve these conditions. These and other ideas are explored in the following Research Study.

Proceed to Limited Time for Science