Test tubes

Education Week recently reported that, though the 2005 Science NAEP exam showed more low-achieving 4th grade students scoring at the "basic" level, results are stagnant or worse in all grades at the "proficient" and "advanced" levels. What does that mean? Simply this: the highest-achieving students aren't gaining any ground in science, and in some grades their performance is falling. Members of Congress are understandably alarmed. Education has "two purposes," says Rep. Dana Rohrabacker (R-Calif.). "One is to... educate the American people in a general sense, and the other is" to stimulate "high achievers.... These are not necessarily the same goals." But Norman R. Augustine-the former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin who has done much work with math and science education-sees the two goals as compatible, since improving overall achievement and helping students at the top are both necessary for strong economic development. The "cream of the cream [sic]... are going to create the jobs for the rest of us," he said. Still, it's official: the NCLB-era focus on closing achievement gaps is starting to lose ground to competitiveness-related concerns with boosting our best and brightest (see here). Coming soon: No Cream of the Cream Left Behind!

"NAEP Scores Show Few Budding Scientists," Sean Cavanagh, Education Week, June 7, 2006 (subscription required)