News / USA

    US Failing its Top Science Students

    High-achieving students unrecognized or underserved in nation's classrooms

    President Barack Obama speaks to students at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sept. 14, 2010.
    President Barack Obama speaks to students at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sept. 14, 2010.


    Rosanne Skirble

    A new report from a government advisory panel says U.S. education is failing many of America's best and brightest young people.

    The National Science Board, which advises Congress and the president on science and engineering issues, says potentially high-achieving young students often go unrecognized or under-served in the nation's classrooms.

    In a back-to-school speech in Philadelphia a few days ago, President Barack Obama told high school students to study hard, even at subjects in which they don't think they can excel.

    "Even if you don't think of yourself as a math person or a science person, you can still excel in those subjects if you're willing to make the effort. And you may find out you have talents you never dreamed of."

    Overlooked and underserved

    Those words are echoed in the National Science Board report: Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators: Identifying and Developing Our Nation's Human Capital.  The study explores ways to promote so-called "STEM" careers, the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

    A new report finds the nation's brightest students are often overlooked in an attempt to raise math and science achievement overall.
    A new report finds the nation's brightest students are often overlooked in an attempt to raise math and science achievement overall.

    Camilla Benbow is dean of education at Vanderbilt University and co-author of the report. She says finding and nurturing tomorrow's innovators is essential to keeping the country competitive in an ideas-driven global economy. The nation's brightest students, she adds, have been too often overlooked in an attempt to raise math and science achievement overall.

    "They weren't being identified. They weren't being developed and so their potential and their contributions were potentially lost. And so that's why we put the report out so that we could also be focused on this group of individuals."

    Benbow disagrees with the popular notion that students are either academically gifted or they are not. She says it is possible to promote more innovative thinking in a general student population, but it is a process that requires a lot of hard work.

    "And that is kind of a mind change and an attitude change that we need to have here in America to focus on how much effort it takes to develop skills to a very high level. And how much support society needs to provide for that to happen."

    'Accident of birth'

    According to the report, America's most talented students face a number of roadblocks, some simply an accident of birth. The authors point to one national study that shows 72 percent of the highest-achievers in first grade were from higher-income families.

    Benbow finds that a startling statistic. "Before we have even begun our educational background, she says "the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has estimated that we loose [academically] about 200,000 kids a year and that to me is inequitable."

    Benbow says schools must be held accountable for the progress of all students. That doesn't necessarily mean more funding, she says, but rather, better coordination of existing resources and flexibility for top students to move across the curriculum at their own pace.

    "Because otherwise they are bored. These kids are advanced. And if they don't have a chance to play with advanced curricula and be learning at the levels at which they are functioning, then they lose that spark, inspiration and passion."

    Challenging bright students

    Benbow says the report makes three broad recommendations: First, to challenge bright students with advanced-placement "…whether these are AP [college level Advanced Placement] courses, whether these are enriched courses, whether this is working in labs, working in industry, mentors and so on."

    Secondly, the board recommends that schools: identify and nurture students no matter their gender, race, ethnicity or economic circumstance, with a commitment to equity and diversity. Thirdly, schools must foster an environment that celebrates learning and rewards innovative thinking.

    Benbow says turning the National Science Board's recommendations into reality is going to require hard work and political will - and a recognition that the country's future depends on it.

    That's a point President Obama stressed in his speech to the students in Philadelphia.

    "The further you go in school, the further you go in life," Mr. Obama said. "And at a time when other countries are competing with us like never before, when students around the world in Beijing, China or Bangalore, India, are working harder than ever, and doing better than ever, your success in school is not just going to determine your success. It's going to determine America's success in the 21st century."

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.