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.

Multimedia

Audio
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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid