According to the 1990 science report card recently sent home to the public, scientific knowledge among United States children is not strong.
The report, published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is based on a survey of nearly 20,000 students in grades 4, 8, and 12.
The majority of the children in all three grades had a good grasp of basic facts and principles, but few could analyze or integrate information, even in the 12th grade.
"One of the things we are losing is the science of reasoning," says Dr. Lynn Glass, president of the National Science Teachers Association. "Logic is being overlooked in teaching."
Results were also analyzed by gender and race. No gender differences were found at grade 4, but small differences favoring males appeared in grades 8 and 12.
In all three grades, white students outperformed blacks and Hispanics, while Hispanics outperformed blacks. Also, students living in advantaged urban communities had the highest proficiency, while those living in disadvantaged urban communities had the lowest.
This poor performance in pre-college science has research companies concerned about the future supply of scientists and engineers.
"Twenty years ago, we had a feeling that there would be an endless supply of the stereotyped engineer - white, advantaged male," says Dr. John Mason, president of the Monsanto Fund, the corporate grant-making arm of Monsanto Company in St. Louis. But this group is shrinking. "Demographics show that more women and minorities are coming through the [school] system." The nation needs to be targeting these people, he says.