Friday, July 17, 2009

Pathetic science examinations in British High Schools: Some exam questions require no scientific knowledge!

Teenagers need only a grasp of grammar and no scientific knowledge to answer GCSE science questions correctly, a report suggests today. It says that the right answers to multiple-choice questions are obvious because they are often the only ones that make grammatical sense. The report is by Science Community Representing Education (Score), which speaks on behalf of organisations including the Royal Society, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Science Council.

A panel of experts reviewed recent changes to GCSE science examinations. It analysed 79 exam papers. The report said that some of the range of answers deemed allowable in marking schemes were not correct. It noted the widespread use of multiple-choice questions, saying: “There were substantial variations between awarding bodies, with some specifications having as few as 2 per cent or 9 per cent of marks available through extended response questions on structured papers. “This is of importance, as extended response questions provide an opportunity for pupils to demonstrate the full extent of their understanding and ability in a deeper sense than is possible in multiple choice or short-response questions.”

It added: “There were a few instances where knowledge of science was not needed to answer some parts of some questions. “Of particular concern were questions which appeared to be general knowledge. “A related finding was that some multiple-choice questions had poorly constructed, incorrect answers. In some cases, only the correct answer made grammatical sense and therefore the incorrect answers were unlikely to be selected by the student, simply on the basis of grammar.”

Sir Alan Wilson, chairman of Score, said: “Science is a quantitative subject yet the amount of maths in the exams varied widely and was generally woefully inadequate. While these general knowledge questions were not widespread, it is astonishing that there are any examples. “The failings outlined in the report must now be addressed as we cannot afford to fail the young people who are working so hard to get their science qualifications.”

Peter Main, director of education and science at the Institute of Physics, said: “Currently, it appears that there is insufficient use of mathematics, the language of science, and that some of the questions do not even require a knowledge of science at all.


Racial gap in U.S. education narrows a bit

Blacks, whites both improve in math, reading -- suggesting that the slight "improvement" is the product of dumbing down the whole system

Despite unprecedented efforts to improve minority achievement in the past decade, the gap between black and white students remains frustratingly wide, according to an Education Department report released yesterday. There is good news in the report: Reading and math scores improved for black students in public schools nationwide. But because white students also improved, the disparity between blacks and whites lessened only slightly. On average, the gap narrowed by about seven points from 1992 to 2007, so black students scored about 28 points behind white students on a 500-point scale.

The divide between minority and white students is considered one of the most pressing challenges in public education. Experts said it stems from entrenched factors that hinder learning. More black children live in poverty, which is linked to an array of problems – low birth weight, exposure to lead poisoning, hunger, too much TV watching, too little talking and reading at home, less involvement by parents and frequent school-changing.

The gap exists even before children start school. But schools don't mitigate the problem [Because it is inborn, as every IQ test ever given has shown], said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a children's advocacy group.

“African-American students are less likely than their white counterparts to be taught by teachers who know their subject matter,” Haycock said. “They are less likely to be exposed to a rich and challenging curriculum,” she said. “And the schools that educate them typically receive less state and local funding than the ones serving mainly white students.” [So that is the reason why the gap excists BEFORE they go to school??]

Scores in reading were especially discouraging. Only three states – New Jersey, Delaware and Florida – narrowed the divide in fourth grade, and no state did so in eighth grade. There was more progress in math among younger children.

Closing the achievement gap was a central element of the 2002 No Child Left Behind law, which holds schools accountable for progress among every group of children – including minorities, those who have disabilities and those who are learning English. The implications of the disparity reach far beyond school walls. Minority students are also much more likely to drop out of high school – half of minorities drop out, compared with about 30 percent of students overall. The future is bleak for dropouts; they are the only segment of the work force whose income levels shrank over the past 30 years, according to the children's advocacy group America's Promise Alliance.

The findings constitute the first major Education Department report since President Barack Obama took office, although it was done by the agency's nonpartisan research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences. The report was based on test results from nationwide assessments from the early 1990s to 2007. A separate report comparing Hispanic and white children is due out next fall.

More here

Australia: Parents charged under seldom-used truanting law after kid constantly skips school

Most probably a black kid. I come from up that way and there were black kids in my school classes -- and they were often absent

POLICE have charged parents of a 15-year-old Queensland teenager who has skipped high school more than 300 times with failing to send their son to school.

The parents, who cannot legally be named, face a $450 fine in a landmark case under the state's new truancy laws. Police and Education Queensland allege the year 10 student has had more than 300 "unexplained absences" since starting at Tully High School two years ago.

Police yesterday described the charges as a "last resort" after the school allegedly made numerous attempts to reach out to the parents. "This is about putting the onus back on the parents and making them responsible for their kids attending school," Tully Detective-Sergeant Scott Moon said.

Yesterday the parents, aged 54 and 53, were issued with a notice to appear in Tully Magistrates Court on August 13. [Getting them to appear should be fun]


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