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Prom tickets for a high score?

I like to think there is some unseen longing inside all of us to understand our world and that this motivates us to engage in science. But I guess prom tickets, iPods, limo rides, and preferred parking spots might work just as well. That's how some schools in Florida are motivating students to do well on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) science exam. 2008 is the first year that science scores will factor into the schools state performance grades, along with the previously counted reading, writing, and math scores.

Schools that perform poorly on the tests are less likely to receive extra funding and other incentives. And - surprise, surprise - many expect the addition of science scores to the equation to have a negative effect on already struggling schools.

According to an article in the Miami Herald, "If last year's scores were an indicator, adding science scores to the grading formula may push struggling schools further under the failure margins. In 2006, only one-third of students across the state scored at Level 3 or above on the test."

And from a story in, "Across Duval County, if the new standard were applied to last year's scores, the district would go from having four failing schools to having 17. By the same standard, the number of A and B schools would drop significantly -- from 83 to 65."

Two things I don't like about this story -

1. Kids being bribed to study science
2. Schools failing miserably in science education

What's going on? It seems to me that this is teaching the students that the school is the one with the stake in the results...In a sense they're telling the students that by doing well on the science exam they're doing a favor to the school, not a favor to themselves and their future...except that they might win an iPod.


  1. Encouraging good grades with sex is a new one.

    From my perspective, bad science comes from bad math. Bad math comes from bad arithmetic. Bad arithmetic comes from the idea that 2 + 2 = 5 isn't "close", it's wrong. This engenders fear of math. My solution: get it right at the start. One idea that seems to work is to teach finger math.

  2. Things I don't like about this post:

    Embedded .BMPs?????? Are you serious? This is 2007 man!

  3. What you have to understand is that while schools are graded based on how many students pass the FCAT science, there is absolutely no reward or consequence for students based on their scores. So, students are told to go spend a few hours taking a standardized test that has absolutely no reward for them if they pass and absolutely no negative result if they fail.

    What do you think students will do? I teach at a school in which is quite common for students to leave the FCAT science test without having even broken the seal on the test book. In other words, they didn't even look at the first question. They slept or stared into space for the entire time.

    The sad part is that smart students should blow off the test. It's basic economics; don't waste time and energy into something that has no return on your investment.

    The problem isn't necessarily that schools aren't teaching science. The problem is a screwed up evaluation system the state has created.


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