Survey Finds Little Focus On Science Education, Fake Grades

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - "I can't believe a teacher would give a grade for a subject they never taught," David Dennis, chair of the Kansas Board of Education, said.

But a report presented to the Board on Tuesday says, they are.

Trego schools superintendent Dr. George Griffith surveyed about 900 teachers across the Midwest for his doctoral dissertation.

The survey relied on anonymous responses and found that 55.3 percent of teachers surveyed had decreased time for science education due to pressures from the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act, which measures student achievement in reading and math.

One in five teachers, 19.9 percent, indicated that they had at some point given a grade for science without teaching or assessing it and 68 percent of those indicated that they did it to provide data for a grade card, Griffith said.

The study was published in 2008 in the Journal for Elementary Science Educators.

Griffith told 13 News his findings point to policy issues and are not a critique of teachers. "NCLB is leaving science behind was a theme proposed by one of the respondents to the survey used for this research," he wrote in his conclusion.

Berryton Elementary sixth-grade teacher David Theilen isn't among the group surveyd. He says science, math and reading are more integrated in the classroom, but science is not suffering.

"I have never felt pressured to eliminate science for social studies because of the new (No Child Left Behind) standards," Theilen said.

"The way that we've been making sure that we are teaching our students reading and math the best is to integrate the science into social studies when you can," he said.

"For example, science and math are integrated whenever you are collecting data and then analyzing the data. Based on that data you're making predictions. Science and language arts overlap well because you are increasing students' ability to comprehend nonfiction texts," he said.

Area school administrators say a falsification of data is not happening in their classrooms.

"When I heard about the report this morning, I called my principals, and they've assured me that it hasn't and it won't happen here,"
Dr. Marty Stessman, superintendent of Shawnee Heights USD 450 said. "It's not something we would tolerate," he added.

Dr. Brenda Dietrich with the Auburn Washburn District USD437, in an e-mail statement, said, "I am confident our elementary teachers are teaching science and recording grades appropriately.
As you would expect, we are spending significant blocks of time teaching reading and math, but we are also finding ways to integrate science into math and reading. Auburn-Washburn will always be a proponent of teaching a balanced educational program that includes science education."

"We have at least one elementary school that has scored 100% on the 4th grade Kansas Science Assessment. I think that is also indisputable proof that elementary teachers are teaching science in USD 437," she added.

The survey's author George Griffith says Topeka USD 501 was not part of the survey.

Members of the State Board of Education said they would have to find out more about the survey, which did not provide district-level detail.

"We're going to to go back and look at that and find out a little more detail,"Dennis said, "As soon as we can get some details, then we can take a look at what kind of action the board might need to take."


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