February 24, 1997--Washington, D.C.--The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is saddened but not surprised by the disappointing scores of U.S. high school seniors in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) released today by the Department of Education.
"As a country dependent on science and technology, we must see this poor performance as a call to action," said Richard Nicholson, AAAS's executive officer. "AAAS urges every community across the nation to launch into a forthright discussion about the implications of these scores and how we can improve the current system of education in science and mathematics. It will take a concerted effort by all of us--schools, parents, industry, government, and science communities--to ensure that future results are much more encouraging."
The issue is a critical one given that a significant proportion of high school graduates go directly into the workforce. Lacking science and numeracy skills, they will be locked out of the U.S. high-wage, knowledge-based economy. Moreover, the U.S. economy demands a workforce that can grasp the basics of science and mathematics if it is to remain competitive in the global market.
Reform efforts are under way in many areas already, and AAAS is encouraged by the strong showing that U.S. fourth-graders had in their TIMMS results last fall. Their higher scores reflect that students who have been in a reform environment from the beginning of their education can do well in learning science and mathematics. They also show that it is not the quality of the students that needs to be called into question, but the methods used to reach those students.
AAAS has been proactive in promoting quality science education in the United States. Through its Project 2061, AAAS has developed a clear statement of science learning goals. Its seminal publications Science for All Americans and Benchmarks for Science Literacy served as the major intellectual base for the National Science Education Standards. However, the implementation of those standards presents a great challenge, especially in terms of how we prepare and retrain teachers for the 21st century, develop and use rigorous and coherent programs of study, meet high expectations, and present opportunities for all students to learn.
To help the United States rise to this formidable task, AAAS continues its projects for testing models for reform and helping all students achieve high standards with special focus on girls and women, minorities, and students with disabilities. It also continues its efforts in providing for out-of-school learning of science and mathematics, through the media and in the home and community.
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