Just 32% of US eighth-graders are proficient in science, according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress exam. While that is a slight gain from 2009’s 30%, teachers and policy makers are concerned with the continued low numbers, the Wall Street Journal reports. "This is deeply disappointing," says the interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. "This performance won't get us where we need to go to create the science-literate work force we need."
Some problems that could be contributing: reduced budgets, not enough qualified science teachers, and No Child Left Behind. The controversial law resulted in narrower science curriculum, since schools are now only evaluated on math and reading scores. Plus, one science department head explains, classroom standards are “mile wide, inch deep. There is no coherency in science education in the US so we end up with a scattered approach, and that harms our students.” (Read more science stories.)