Survey: Parents and Students Satisfied with Current Math/Science Education

Survey: Parents and Students Satisfied with Current Math/Science Education

NEW YORK

      As the math and science achievement of American students continues to lag behind the international competition, business leaders, educators and President Bush in his State of the Union address are all launching major campaigns to improve math and science education for the nation’s students. But a new national survey of parents and high school students from the nonpartisan research organization Public Agenda suggests that neither group shares business and government leaders’ worries that flagging math and science skills are a threat to both students’ and the nation’s future.

      In the first of a series of reports, “Reality Check 2006: Are American Parents and Students Ready for More Math and Science?,” Public Agenda found that while, in general, parents support proposals to make high schools globally competitive, most (57 percent) also say the amount of science and math their child studies now is about right. In fact, Public Agenda notes, parents’ concern about math and science achievement has actually declined since the mid 1990s. In 1994, 48 percent of parents thought their children were not getting enough math and science, compared to only 32 percent of parents thinking the same in 2005.

      American students apparently aren’t overly worried either. Only 25 percent said lack of emphasis on science and math is a problem in their own school. And, despite widely publicized predictions about the role science and technology will play in the economy of the future, more than 40 percent of students said they would be quite unhappy if they ended up in a career with a math or science focus.

      About 41 percent of students said having great skills with computers and technology is essential, and 50 percent said that understanding science and having strong math skills were essential. When asked to rank serious problems in their own schools, not being taught enough math and science ranked near the bottom.

      Despite concerns about how few young women pursue math and science studies and careers, the survey found no significant differences between the attitudes of high school girls and boys. About 58 percent of female and 55 percent of male student respondents said increasing the number and quality of math and science courses would improve high school education. And even though American students generally score poorly on international comparisons, both girls (65 percent) and boys (66 percent) said they have learned a lot in math class.

      There are, however, some striking differences between minority and White students. Minority high-schoolers were more likely (53 percent) than White high-schoolers (48 percent) to say that math and science are “absolutely essential” for real world success. And 31 percent of minority students, compared to 20 percent of White students, said that not being taught enough math and science was a “serious problem” in their own school.

      “Those who know most about the economy and workplace of the future realize that the U.S. public schools, especially high schools, are not imbuing students with the science and math skills that will be essential in the 21st century. But until recently, most leadership initiatives had been focused on revamping and strengthening college-level math and science degree programs,” said Public Agenda President Ruth Wooden. “But if the demand side is weak, if 12th-graders continue to rank near the bottom internationally on math and science, and if too few students and parents are interested in these offerings it will not make even a dent in the problem.”

      Jean Johnson, executive director of Public Agenda’s new initiative Education Insights said, “Business and government leaders who are concerned about the state of math and science education in today’s high schools need to get out there and rally the troops. They need to help parents and kids understand the nature of the challenge to our economy and work force. Right now, most American parents are complacent and most kids underestimate the role that science and math will play in their future and in the future of our economy.”



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