Why Do High Schools Students do Poorly in Math and Science?
In the United States, some parents and educators think, “The kids are all right,” while others see the entire education system falling apart. In part, the problem of interpretation rests in the inability of American high school students to score well in two particular areas: math and science. Time and time again international tests indicate that, in these two areas, American high school students trail far behind other countries. Even Canada, with a similar education system taught in the same language, has consistently rated higher than the United States.
There are a number of theories regarding why American students are falling behind other countries in these two areas. The theories that consider the why’s of the failure of American students to make the grade usually point to any of the following:
- Poverty: Students at suburban and wealthy urban schools do better than those who attend poorer rural and urban schools. And, those students in poverty, have needs that go far beyond the classroom.
- Teachers: They are over worked and under paid or not doing their job
- Money: The wealthier districts are better able to provide the right atmosphere, teachers and school equipment needed to be more successful than the other districts
- Politicians: They are constantly demanding changes and are unable to find the right fix
- Method: The manner in which students are taught math and science is the reason behind low test scores
Each of these theories has its supporters. The issues of poverty and social disadvantages are often linked. Even the OCED has made adjustments in its scoring and testing system to account for the high rates of American poverty. Yet, some dispute these traditional theories, stating that teachers’ wages are comparable and that class size has been reduced.
Alternatives to the traditional theories
A report from the Economic Police Institute disputes the findings of international tests. The report states that poverty levels are not sufficiently accounted for, and that when properly adjusted, American students do not score lower than their economic partners. Politicians accept these results, which are an oversimplification and are frequently misleading, the report says.
Some find the fault within the system. High school students are bored and need to be challenged if we hope to see them on par with students in other nations.
The exact reason why American high school students continue to underperform in math and science is widely debated. There’s no simple explanation, and a solution will require a multi-prong approach.