Hearst and California’s State Standardized Test Scores and NCTM Expectations

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23^{rd}, January 2013

Setting standards and expectations in education is necessary, as this sets the pace for both teachers and students, making them work hard and perform according to the set standards. These standards in education comprise of the requirements and responsibilities of both the teacher and student in each of the subject they do in every grade. In California, the State Board of Education sets these education standards, covering kindergarten up to the high school level. The California Department of Education is responsible for ensuring that schools adhere to these standards. The advantage of all schools in a state to adopt same standards is that when a student changes schools, they are still guaranteed good education due to the same standards in the state.

Mathematics and Science are some of the most important subjects in the curriculum. These subjects though require students to have a higher level of concentration during the learning process, due to the nature of their concepts. Most schools therefore, put more emphasis on these so that students perform equally well in them, like in the other subjects. For this reason, the national council of teachers of mathematics (NCTM) has also set its standards and expectations of schools in their performance in Mathematics.

The mathematics expectations and standard by NCTM applies to the levels of prekindergarten through grade 12. These expectations are specific to each grade basing on their curriculum. However, generally, this body of mathematics teachers expects that as a student goes through all the grades up to grade 12, they should have mastered all the important concepts in mathematics. Fist, students should be good at numbers and operations. This includes number systems, relationship between numbers, meaning of operations, and computing. In algebra, students must understand patterns, relations, and functions. They should also be able to analyze situations in mathematics using algebraic symbols (“National Council of Teachers of Mathematics”).

The geometry standard requires students to be able to analyze the properties of geometric shapes and their relationships. They should also be in a position to apply symmetry to different mathematical situations, and use visualizing and geometry in problem solving. In measurement, students must understand different measurements and apply them. For data analysis and probability, students must be able to develop questions that can be solved with data collection. In addition, they should be able to employ right statistical method in data analysis. Overall, NCTM expects that the mathematics learning process should impart problem-solving skills in students and help them identify reasoning and proof as an important aspect in mathematics. The mathematical process must also help students develop their communication, including mathematical thinking. Additionally, students must be able to apply mathematical principles outside of mathematics. Finally, the concept of representation should help students to create and interpret social, physical, and mathematical phenomena (“NCTM”).

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) also has a set of standards and expectations of schools in the science subject. This expects the science program to impart problem-solving skills in students, to solve problems in today’s scientific world. Teachers must therefore, involve students in first-hand scientific experiences and utilize mathematical and communication skills in the learning process. Teachers must use different teaching styles and allow class discussions without any form of discrimination. Use of hands-on experiments to enhance and develop skills in students, and participations in workshops and conferences for scientific knowledge gain must be practiced (“National Science Teachers Association”).

The school administrators provide instructional leadership by enforcing the national standards of science, and implementing and monitoring the science program in their schools. They should also provide support systems in science by making the purchase of science equipment, space, and materials; as well as encouraging special science events. The support for science in elementary schools should be a collective role of teachers, parents, businesses, and other organizations, which form the community. These should participate in funding of elementary science projects and promote informal science learning experiences. Assessment in science must consider problem-solving, concept application, inquiry, and process skills. This must also meet the curricular objectives and purpose. To improve the science program, teachers must be updated on education research and participate in action research. Therefore, these are the expectations of NSTA for science programs in elementary schools (“NSTA”).

The existence of education standards is one thing, and meeting them is another thing. Therefore, it is important that schools be monitored and assessed to find out if they adhere to these standards. Assessments and test scores are core in determining the level of adherence to the set standards. Hearst Elementary School is an example of the public schools in San Diego, California, which are covered by these standards of mathematics and science. By scrutinizing its standardized test scores in the subjects, one may learn whether these standards have an effect on the school performance or not.

In 2011-2012, the Hearst Elementary school in San Diego CA used the California Standard Tests to test students in different subjects, including math and science. Math was tested in grades 2 to 7, while science was tested in grades 5, 8, and 10. These tests are important, as they reflect how well the state education standards are observed by students and teachers. Standardized test scores in Math in 2011 and 2012 were as follows: Grade 2; 81 and 84 per cent, Grade 3; 94 and 96 per cent; Grade 4; 82 and 80 per cent; Grade 5; 92 and 96 per cent (science), 88 and 85 per cent (math). The state average for both math and science in these grades ranged between 60-71 per cent. This is a fair performance for the state of California, and an excellent one for Hearst elementary school (“California Department of Education”).

However, over the past years, there has been growing concerns about the performance of schools in California in math and science. For instance, in 2009, California was the third bottom state in math scores. This state is also always among the low-ranking states in the biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress, a national test for grade 4 and grade 8 across the nation. In math, only 40 per cent of fourth graders and 35 per cent of eighth graders scored above average. This is a worrying trend in this state, which needs to be addressed. From these results, developing a valid judgment can be hard considering the test scores at the two levels. At the state level, Hearst elementary school performs satisfactorily, meaning students and teachers adhere to the state’s education standards. However, at the national level, the state of California ranks among the least performing states, meaning this state possibly does not fully adhere to national education standards. Therefore, this performance in math and science does not meet the expectations of NCTM and NSTA. The adoption of better strategies and practice will however, help solve this growing problem (“National Science Teachers Association”).

**Evaluation of the Test Scores and Strategies for Improving the Scores**

From the test scores, one realizes that the performance is inconsistent at the state and national levels. At the state level, performance in the standardized state tests is above average, even the state average score is well above average. However, the opposite occurs in national tests. More than half of the examined students do not score above average in math, neither does the state average score, which is among the lowest. This simply shows that the California state education standards are lower, compared to the national education standards. Therefore, this calls for changes and adoption of new and more effective strategies.

First, there is need to revisit the curriculum content and standards. By ensuring that these are focused, coherent, and a representation of the nature of math and science, this will be the first step in recovering from low test scores. Secondly, there might be need to change teaching strategies. Collaboration of teachers in different grades is crucial, as well as allowing for more interactive learning methods. In addition, the qualification and experience of science and math teachers is important, therefore should be valid. Finally, assessments should be treated with much importance. Assessments in math and science should be formative and continuous, as these give teachers a hence to note weaknesses in students and address them on time.

References

“California Department of Education (CDE).” (n.d). Retrieved from

“National Center for Education Statistics (NCSS).” (n.d). Retrieved from

“National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).” (n.d). Retrieved from

“National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).” (n.d). Retrieved from

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