The Science Education Myth

Business Week says there is no science education crisis; that in fact the US is producing more science experts than the market demands.

The call has been taken up by some of the most prominent people in business and politics. Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, said at an education summit in 2005, “In the international competition to have the biggest and best supply of knowledge workers, America is falling behind.” President George W. Bush addressed the issue in his 2006 State of the Union address. “We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations,” he said.

Salzman and Lowell found the reverse was true. Their report shows U.S. student performance has steadily improved over time in math, science, and reading. It also found enrollment in math and science courses is actually up. For example, in 1982 high school graduates earned 2.6 math credits and 2.2 science credits on average. By 1998, the average number of credits increased to 3.5 math and 3.2 science credits. The percent of students taking chemistry increased from 45% in 1990 to 55% in 1996 and 60% in 2004. Scores in national tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the SAT, and the ACT have also shown increases in math scores over the past two decades.