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Report: Science reduced in Kan. elementary schools

Published on -11/14/2012, 2:57 PM

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Elementary schools in Kansas and four surrounding states have drastically reduced or even eliminated instruction in science because teachers feel pressured to improve performance in math and reading, according to a survey conducted by a Kansas school superintendent.

George Griffith, superintendent of the Trego school district and a member of a Kansas committee drawing up new national science standards, told the Kansas Board of Education on Tuesday that he surveyed more than 900 elementary teachers in Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska as part of a doctoral dissertation.

His survey found as many as one in five elementary teachers in the states are reporting science grades on student report cards, even though they don't teach the subject or test pupils in it, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/ZsspOV ). The teachers said pressure to increase performance on reading and math tests prompted them reduce class time for science.

"I identified that a little over 55 percent of our K-6 teachers have decreased science education," Griffith said. "The average was between 30 minutes to an hour per week that they have cut it, with the main reason that they want to focus on reading and math assessments."

He said some of the pressure was from administrators and some came from the teachers' own beliefs.

Griffith said when he presented his findings to national organizations of science teachers, few people were surprised.

"This seems to be an ongoing theme around the country," he said. "It's not just in Kansas."

The federal No Child Left Behind Law tied federal funding for schools that serve high concentrations of low-income families to student achievement on reading and math tests. All schools were required to meet increasingly higher benchmarks each year for the number of students who scored proficient or better on standardized tests in those two subjects.

Kansas schools no longer have to meet those benchmarks because the state recently received a waiver from No Child Left Behind. But schools are still accountable for student performance in reading and math, using different measurements that consider more than the number of students who score above a certain level.

Board member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican, said he wanted to know more about teachers who give grades in science without teaching it.

"That is unconscionable. It reflects a lack of integrity and it is not appropriate for Kansas students," he said.

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