Not actually offering any science instruction is not stopping some teachers in Kansas — and elsewhere — from giving their students science grades, the Huffington Post reports. At least 20% of Kansas teacher write in science grades in students’ report cards even though they neither offer any science teaching over the course of the period being graded nor test their students on science knowledge.
These were the conclusions of the report presented by Trego district superintendent George Griffith to the Kansas State Board of Education last week. The report looked at 900 elementary school teachers in Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma and found, among other things, that elementary schools in those states have reduced the amount of time spent teaching science and science-related subjects by as much as an hour a week.
Educators said they reported science grades simply because there was a blank space for it on report cards. Cutting back on science lessons also meant teachers could spend more time focusing on high-stakes reading and math exams.
In a statement to the Lawrence World Journal, Griffith said that he understood the pressure facing elementary school teachers. He noted that it is simply a matter of assigning priority to the subjects being tested at the state level. Griffith also said that he suspected similar things were happening in states all over the country, not just in Kansas.
The pressure to do well on standardized reading and math tests stem from the federal No Child Left Behind law, a signature initiative of President George W. Bush’s administration that requires standardized testing of students and a system of penalties for low test scores. Federal funding for Title I schools — those that serve large groups of low-income students — has been pegged to student performance on reading and math tests. The law expired in 2007 and Congress has repeatedly failed to reauthorize it. When lawmakers missed President Barack Obama’s fall deadline to rewrite the legislation, the administration began offering relief from the toughest parts of NCLB.
According to Huffington Post, this isn’t the first time that teachers have been caught out assigning grades for material they hadn’t taught. An investigation by the Dallas Independent School District uncovered similar doings by Field Elementary Principal Roslyn Carter, who decreed that teachers focus their time on teaching mathematics and reading at the expense of other subjects. Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills only focuses on these topics on the third-grade exams, and the exam results play a large role in the annual school evaluation.