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Published: Saturday, 6/15/2002

Proficiency scores in science dilute joy of general progress

BY SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

All but a handful of districts in Lucas and Wood counties had ninth-grade proficiency test passage rates above 80 percent in each subject, but only a few had improvements in science this year.

According to data released this week by the Ohio Department of Education, just two of 15 area districts improved their science scores from 2001 - Anthony Wayne and Ottawa Hills.

Two districts - Toledo and Bowling Green - stayed the same.

But 11 districts declined between 1 and 6 percentage points in science. By comparison, seven districts declined in math, six in reading, five in citizenship, and four in reading.

Suburban

science scores: 2002 ninth grade

District

%

Passing

Science

%

Change

from 2001

Ottawa

Hills

100

2

Anthony

Wayne

95

1

Bowling

Green

86

0

Toledo

66

0

Sylvania

93

-1

Perrysburg

92

-1

Maumee

91

-3

Otsego

88

-3

Lake

87

-2

Springfield

86

-4

Elmwood

84

-6

Northwood

84

-6

Washington

83

-1

Oregon

81

-1

Rossford

80

-6

Statewide

81

0

“I think seeing that it's dropped, it's sending a message that there's a need not only for the students to kind of be more open to some new opportunities in science but also to look at how comfortable the teachers are teaching it,” said Auntaneshia Garry, director of community and school programs at COSI Toledo.

Area administrators weren't sure whether it is a one year blip or the start of a trend, but they said they will analyze their scores and adjust curriculum and emphasis if needed.

“Generally we're pleased with the results,” said Lynn Studer, assistant principal at Otsego High School, where students scored a high of 100 percent in reading and lows of 88 percent in math and science. “I can't really give an explanation for the science.”

The two-and-a-half hour test covers life, physical, earth, and space sciences. Students are asked to classify objects or a group of organisms, differentiate between facts and assumptions, identify proper safety methods for experiments, use measuring devices, and apply concepts of the earth's rotation, tilt, and revolution. Questions also cover simple machines, interactions of matter and energy, and concepts of force, mass, energy, sound, and light waves, relationships between plants and animals, renewable and nonrenewable resources, environmental change, and the transmission of genetic characteristics.

Rona Simon, continuous improvement director in Perrysburg, said the changes in that district's scores between 2001 and 2002 simply could reflect a harder test this year.

“I guess my sense is those scores will fluctuate a little bit from year to year,” she said of science scores that dropped from 93 to 92 percent. “I'm pleased with the scores. I don't really see that as significant.”

Dr. Simon said the district's emphasis on reading and writing in the lower grades may be part of the reason for science's and math's minor lag.

“I don't see that the other subjects have gotten the same attention,” she said.

Rick Heintschel, director of curriculum and instructional personnel in Anthony Wayne Schools, suggested science scores could be lower than other subjects because the test is given last in the proficiency test sequence.

“There's a lot of different things that predict the success of taking tests,” Mr. Heintschel said.

The lower science scores this year concern Robert Schultz, an assistant education professor at University of Toledo and former science teacher.

“We need to take a look at what science is for the earlier grades,” Dr. Schultz said.

Many elementary teachers, he said, don't have as much science background as they do in language arts and math. He said it's possible that in many districts, special education in elementary school focuses on reading and writing at the expense sometimes of science.

“They're not providing the services in a science classroom,” Dr. Schultz said.

Mr. Heintschel, who oversees teacher hiring, said often university graduates with science degrees are lured away from teaching into private industries by high salaries.

“With a science degree, they're marketable outside of education. They're going out into conservation, into industry. They may go right out and get their master's in business administration or work in research,” he said. “They're probably starting at a pay rate substantially higher than they're going to make going into education.”



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