Faced with a school full of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who are going to struggle to make it into the middle class when they grow up, most elementary school principals and teachers double down on what they see as most basic – the ability to read. Maybe some math, too.
But science? Probably not. If the kids can’t read (the principals and teachers at these schools might say) then they can’t do science. Right?
And then, the school grades that are so important to policy-makers, administrators, parents and even real estate professionals (yes, they affect property values) weigh reading and math heavily. Science? It’s only tested once in elementary school – in 5th grade.
Finally, there is this: Very few elementary school teachers are comfortable enough with science and science pedagogy to teach it effectively. If an elementary school doesn’t have an elementary science specialist, it might very well teach science-by-worksheet.
Nationally, the average elementary school student does science only 2.6 hours per week (so says Change the Equation). And one might question the quality of those hours at most elementary schools.
So when you find an elementary school with a large population of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds that is succeeding in science, that is something special. The figure below, which shows the percentage of students at each elementary school passing (score of 3 or better) the 5th grade Science FCAT plotted against the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch shows just how special that is. The schools in the upper right corner of the plot are those that succeed in science despite the socioeconomic challenges their students face.
There are 20 elementary school members of The 70-70 Club, schools that achieve a passing rate of 70% or better despite a student population that is 70% or more eligible for free and reduced price lunch (FRL).
The concentration of these schools in a small number of school districts speaks volumes about how policy-makers in those districts value science at the elementary level. Look at medium-sized Citrus County on the Gulf of Mexico, which has 15,000 students. Four of their elementary schools made the 70-70 Club. Giant Miami-Dade is well represented, too, with seven schools. Rural Calhoun and Dixie Counties – each with only about 2,000 students – are represented.
Panacea Prep Charter School (82% passing; 82% FRL)
Somerset Academy East Preparatory School (70% passing; 86% FRL)
Blountstown Elementary School (71% passing; 74% FRL)
Citrus Springs Elementary School (70% passing; 75% FRL)
Floral City Elementary School (73% passing; 80% FRL)
Homosassa Elementary School (88% passing; 83% FRL)
Pleasant Grove Elementary School (71% passing; 72% FRL)
Eastside Elementary School (73% passing; 72% FRL)
Old Town Elementary School (85% passing; 100% FRL)
Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School (73% passing; 76% FRL)
Sneads Elementary School (79% passing; 70% FRL)
Banyan Elementary School (82% passing; 83% FRL)
Coral Park Elementary School (83% passing; 75% FRL)
Ethel Koger Beckham Elementary School (76% passing; 76% FRL)
Mater Academy East Charter School (80% passing; 86% FRL)
Miami Gardens Elementary School (73% passing; 95% FRL
North Dade Center for Modern Language (86% passing; 74% FRL)
Royal Palm Elementary School (70% passing; 91% FRL)
Passport Charter School (77% passing; 82% FRL)
Ormand Beach Elementary School (81% passing; 71% FRL)
Once again, I want to thank Connor Oswald for compiling these results, and Ron Matus for having the idea for this analysis. Ron recently wrote a profile of a high-poverty Catholic school where science is a priority for redefinEdonline.org.