HARRISBURG PA – Almost 11 percent of Pottsgrove High School students entering 12th grade this year lacked the science skills necessary to succeed in a high-technology global economy, the state Education Department claimed Tuesday (Dec. 9, 2008).
However, most of Pottsgrove’s incoming seniors were far better prepared for science than those elsewhere in the state. Overall, according to department figures, 64 percent of Pennsylvania’s 11th graders aren’t ready “to compete in (a) science-rich world,” Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said.
Worries over high schoolers’ science knowledge follows the state’s release of science scores as part of the 2008 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment. Statewide, only 35.7 percent of 11th grade students scored at grade level or better on PSSA exams in science, according to the department. The news was brighter among the state’s 8th graders, 52.7 percent of whom scored at grade or higher, and stronger still among 4th grade students, 81.5 percent of whom made the cut.
By comparison, in the Pottsgrove School District, 89.4 percent of 11th graders, 86.1 percent of 8th graders, and 95.5 percent of 4th graders all had acceptable or better science exam scores. In addition, 23.6 percent of all Pottsgrove students tested were deemed “advanced” in science – the best rating possible – and just 10 percent overall fell below basic levels.
Zahorchak blamed local school boards, which he said control high school graduation requirements and local assessments, for failing to ensure their graduates were “ready for college or careers.” He prefers to propose statewide high school graduation requirements.
This marks the first year science results have been tabulated as part of the PSSA, which has tested students in math, reading and writing since 2002. Science results will now be released annually.
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