We’re not exactly the ‘science state’

Scores for science tests for 8th graders in the nation were released today. Minnesota’s performance was relatively mediocre with no significant improvement over previous test scores. The state is near the top of the list of states where the tests were administered, but there’s little room for pride in the results.


Frighteningly, 24 percent of Minnesota 8th graders are below basic understanding of science and 60 percent are not considered proficient.

How bad is that? Here are some of the sample questions (take the quiz here)

What atoms combine to make up a molecule of water?

A. 1 hydrogen, 1 oxygen

B. 1 hydrogen, 2 oxygen

C. 2 hydrogen, 1 oxygen

D. 2 hydrogen, 2 oxygen

Which characteristic is shared by all cells?

A. They need energy.

B. They reproduce sexually.

C. They make their own food.

D. They move from place to place.

The diagram below shows the collision of two tectonic plates in Asia.


Diagram showing the collision of two tectonic plates in Asia. A rectangular shape is divided in half by a drawing of mountains labeled “Himalayas. To the left of the mountains is an open area with no label; underneath this area are the words “Indian Plate” with an arrow pointing to the right. To the right of the mountains is an open area labeled “Tibetan Plateau.” Under this plateau are the words “Eurasian Plate” with an arrow pointing to the left.

What is a result of this collision?

A. Volcanoes erupt periodically.

B. The Tibetan Plateau slowly sinks.

C. The Himalayas increase in height each year.

D. Glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau melt.

Water evaporates and falls back to Earth as rain or snow. What is the primary energy source that drives this cycle?

A. The wind

B. The Sun

C. Air pressure

D. Ocean currents

  • matt

    Got to love the US approach to educating its young! At least Minnesota, by withdrawing from NCLB, has moved from a focus of not having kids fail to a focus of achieving proficiency!

    Yes, kids should be competent in most if not all subjects but the directing efforts at 100% proficency (which is well short of anything resembling excellence) ignores a kids strength and leaves school a barely tolerable monotony. Feeding our childrens strengths and letting them stretch in those areas and then picking up the other parts at the appropriate time is more resource efficient and beneficial to the students and society than marching 30 kids in lock step to achieve minimum goals.

    The model is broken.

  • Josh

    I am smarter than an 8th grader!

  • nt

    I am a college physics professor. Those questions, if representative, are a very poor predictor of whether students will succeed in the college courses I teach. Sampling content knowledge is a poor way to approach the issue of teacher/school effectiveness. Measuring the skill of scientific reasoning would be a MUCH, MUCH smarter thing for the ed. testing people to focus on.