Education Report Reflects Gains in Science and Math Achievement

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Publication date: 
28 August 1995
Number: 
121

Last week, the Department of Education's National Center for
Education Statistics released its annual report, entitled "The
Condition of Education, 1995."  The 518-page document looks at
educational trends in the United States over the decade since the
1982 publication of the groundbreaking report, "A Nation At Risk."
The introductory statement by Emerson Elliott, Commissioner of
Education Statistics, highlights the following trends related to
math and science education (the notation "//" means separate
paragraphs have been combined to save space):

"In the 12 years since `A Nation At Risk' advocated tougher course
requirements for high school graduation, states and students have
responded dramatically.  High school graduates are taking more
courses overall, particularly academic courses.  The proportion of
students completing the recommended core courses in English, math,
science, and social studies has increased, and a greater percentage
is taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses.//  In addition, more
students are taking algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus
as well as advanced science courses, including chemistry and
physics...."

"It is also encouraging to see these improvements in high school
course taking reflected in gains in mathematics and science
achievement.  Between 1982 and 1992, the mathematics and science
proficiency scores of 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of
Educational Progress (NAEP) increased (9 points on each
assessment)...."

"As a nation, we put great value on mathematics and science.
Recently, this is evident in Goal 5 of the National Education
Goals: `U.S. students will be first in the world in science and
mathematics achievement.'  Although, as noted above, the
mathematics and science scores of U.S. students have increased
since the early 1980s, they remain low compared to their
counterparts in many other countries...."//  "It is also worrisome
that despite a narrowing in the white-minority gap in achievement
during the 1980s, particularly in mathematics, recent data raise
the possibility that the gap is no longer closing...."

Other science trends noted in the report include:

"In 1992, average science achievement was higher at all three age
levels than in 1982....  In addition, the gap between male and
female scores at ages 13 and 17 has decreased."

"The number of bachelor's degrees earned in the science and
engineering fields peaked in the mid-1980s, representing 22 percent
of the total number of bachelor's degrees conferred in 1986.  Since
then, the number of science and engineering degrees conferred has
fallen, reaching 16 percent of total bachelor's degrees conferred
in 1992."//  "The number of science and engineering master's and
doctor's degrees conferred grew faster than the total number of
master's and doctor's degrees between 1981 and 1992.  However, in
1992, science and engineering master's and doctor's degrees made up
approximately the same percentage of total degrees as they did in
1971."

"The Condition of Education, 1995," NCES 95-273 (ISBN
0-16-048181-3) can be purchased from the
Government Printing Office at (202) 512-1800.