Recent tests of Nebraska eighth-graders found 36-percent proficient in basic math skills, while only 26-percent of fourth-graders were found to understand basic science concepts.
Alan Leshner, C-E-O of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says Nebraska students are clearly struggling and he sees signs President-elect Obama will help to give science a more important role, like when he appointed a Nobel Prize-winning physicist as the U-S Secretary of Energy.
“The new administration has to balance problems in dealing with the economy with applying the best science and technology to the nation’s major problems,” Leshner says. “Whether it’s climate, energy, the environment, stem cell research, health care — every major issue of modern life has science as a part of it.”
He says science and technology are critical to the nation’s future workforce, but Nebraska schools are facing a challenge in meeting demand. Leshner says, “One of the biggest problems is that it’s very difficult to recruit and retain the best and brightest science teachers because they can, frankly, make more money in other science-related occupations.”
He notes that financial challenges are hitting teachers across the state and nation like everyone else. “I believe we will never address the problems with science education until we get the political or public will to pay science teachers in a way that will be competitive with other fields,” he says.
Leshner is executive publisher of the journal “Science.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science is the world’s largest general science organization and represents an estimated ten-million scientists globally.