Oversight committee looking at state's science standards

At a time when public school students are turning out some of the worst science scores, those in charge of setting the standards have plans to drop some of those standards.

"You say, why are we concerned about these standards? We have found in looking at our test assessment that our students are not performing," Kay Gossett, a member of the state Education Oversight Committee, said.

South Carolina public school students aren't keeping up with foreign students in science or math.

The 2011 Palmetto Assessment of State Standards test results show only 37 percent of 3rd graders met PASS testing standards, while only 33 percent of 8th graders scored well enough to pass the test.

Results show students who leave high school for college aren't ready for basic science classes.

Dr. Red Smith teaches astronomy at Central Carolina Technical College. He says it's tough teaching advanced science classes when his students come prepared so differently.

"I see those that have gotten by on memorization -- here's what's going to be on the test, memorize it, then forget it the next day -- and they don't do well," Smith said.

Smith says the idea that teaching more in-depth would give students what they need to succeed at the next level.

"I like the idea that they're asking for more understanding, rather than memorization and just repeating concepts and that," Smith said. "If it can be done, would be a big improvement."

Even professors in four-year universities have trouble with underclassmen who don't understand basic science.

Education Oversight Committee Director Melanie Barton says she just had that same conversation with a Clemson chemistry professor.

"She said, 'The students coming to Clemson do not have the depth of understanding that they need for me to then proceed forward as a chemistry professor,'" Barton said.

The test results do show some good news. The state's science rankings have moved up a few spots, but they still remain in the 30's when compared to other states.

State leaders say they're not reducing the state's science standards. They just want to narrow the standards and teach students the basics.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.