December 2009 Your Turn

“We’re No. 9!” may not be a much of a rallying cry, but that’s the way U.S. fourth-graders rank in one international math assessment. Still, when asked about the quality of teaching in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, more than a third of you said U.S. schools are doing a good job.

Of course, that leaves nearly two-thirds who rate them as merely average or “below average or worse.” (Twenty-nine percent of you picked each of those.)

“We simply need to get better,” wrote Texas superintendent Paul Vranish.

While we talk a lot about how the U.S. ranks globally in science and math, perhaps a more basic question needs to be addressed, Alaska board member Jeff Friedman suggested.

“Before we start talking about whether we are doing a good job, we need a national discussion on what students should be learning,” Friedman said. “What does every adult need to know about science? What additional knowledge is needed for those going on to different technical or professional careers? We need to answer those questions before we can begin to put a grade on how well we are teaching science.”

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