A new study from the Lawrence Hall of Science* paints a grim picture of science learning in SF Bay Area classrooms. There just is not enough time. 80% of teachers report spending less than an hour per week on science, and 16% say they teach no science at all. One principal in the SF Chronicle article points out that each day has only 5 hours for instruction, so it is no surprise that some subjects get the short end. And the subjects that are not tested are the first to go, which is why NSTA has started a campaign to "Make Science Count".
As a teacher of children who were way behind, I made similar decisions to focus on math and reading. After all, these are the "gateway" subjects - without them, you cannot advance. It was only after I left teaching that I realized that by limiting exposure to science, social studies, arts, etc., we were opening the gateway with a path to nowhere. I find this concept best expressed as Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity, a paper arguing that all three of these pieces are needed for student success.
I argued yesterday against extending the regular instructional day. However, we do need a paradigm shift that provides time for engagement in science and other potential future careers. Eliminating testing is just hiding the evidence. Instead, we need to face testing as a reality and find ways to reach students with all the instruction they need, plus the ideas that make that instruction worthwhile. They are awake for 14-18 hours a day - I think we can find the time!
Link to Article | Link to Study
(*Disclaimer: I work on the same team at the Lawrence Hall of Science as those who conducted the research.)