The Cost of Improvement

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Science  17 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6096, pp. 778
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6096.778-a

With increased emphasis on the role of science and technology in economic prosperity come increased efforts to improve science education. In the United States, science-focused education efforts occur on a backdrop of broader efforts to improve public education by using standardized tests of student achievement, largely limited to literacy and math. Because low test scores often come with steep consequences, the pressure to “teach to the test” can corrupt the system and undermine the very educational processes that are being monitored. Indeed, research has shown that high-stakes standardized tests focused on literacy and math in primary school can lead to decreases in the instructional time dedicated to other topics such as science. Maltese and Hochbein studied U.S. high schools in Indiana and found that despite school-level improvement of some schools on measures of math and literacy as reflected on a statewide standardized test used for evaluating schools (ISTEP), student-level performance in those improving schools did not demonstrate improvement in literacy or math on a separate, widely used college-entrance examination (ACT). Furthermore, school-level improvement on ISTEP math and literacy was generally associated with lower individual student-level science achievement on ACT.

J. Res. Sci. Teach. 49, 804 (2012).

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