Ever since I was little, I have always dreamed of becoming a health care professional. To fulfill this dream, I am double majoring in Biology and Exercise and Sports Science. Both of these majors require many STEM classes, but particularly science. Just like me, many of my peers are also on the pre-med track, and although their majors may be different, we are all still required to take the same basic science classes to prepare us for the MCAT.
Now, it makes me question that if so many of us are entering into STEM fields for our future careers, why wasn’t science as heavily emphasized when we were younger. Honestly, I don’t even remember taking my first science class until maybe the third grade. Even still, all of our testing was mostly focused on math and reading. This trend continued throughout middle and high school as well. Prepping for college when we are giving the option of taking the SAT or the ACT, only the ACT has a science portion, and most students end up taking the SAT anyway and submitting those scores.
I recently attended a talk with Dr. Curran who is an assistant professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore College. He talked of the importance of science in early education. Many people don’t think about it, but science education isn’t normally taught until halfway through elementary school. He questioned if it was beneficial to teach science at such a young age and if it impacted future education.
Dr. Curran found that there are economic, personal, and societal reasons to invest in early science education. Investing in this early allows us to examine their future science grades which has been found to create an impact. Black students were found to score 8/10 of a standard deviation lower than their white counterparts. Upon entering first grade, boys had a slight advantage in the science field. More than just black students and their white counterparts, many other races had large disparities as early as kindergarten education, especially in science. This makes sense considering science isn’t normally taught that early. For example, Asian students are scoring as much as 1/2 of a standard deviation lower than their white counterparts, although their reading and math scores are on par.
A lotnetial solution to this achievement gap is preschool. There have been some guidelines for schools in terms of science education but none have been very enforced. This minimal enforcement could the root of many problems. Science instruction has the potential to boost early learning and promote higher level learning.
At this point, Dr. Curran introduced another important point: the Ecological Systems Theory. This states that science achievement is influenced by a number of different contexts. For example, higher preschool attendance resulted in higher teacher rated science ability when they reached kindergarten and first grade. However, it is still a theory and there has been no evidence in the students standardized test scores in the spring of their kindergarten year.
Could preschool be the leverage point to eliminating the achievement gap disparity between different groups? More is to come as future research is conducted. Not much is known as of the moment due to the limited research but I look forward to hearing more on this subject in future years.