My colleague Zac Chase just shared an article that a national emphasis on reading and math has resulted in a drop-off in science education -- as compared to students scores in other countries. That's certainly possible. However, I think we can view literacy and numeracy alongside, or integrated with, science education. How can we do this? By providing the time and resources for teachers to co-plan effective K-12 curricula, especially within elementary schools.
Elementary teachers are especially well-situated to create integrated curricula that help students identify problems, create solutions, measure outcomes, and co-present with classmates. For example, the study of an urban brownfield (or the African savanna) could easily develop students' language, social studies, math and science skills.
Back to the international comparison of students' test scores. If NAEP is going to be used to compare students' scores with other countries, then what metrics are the other countries using? There's something very unscientific about standardized test scores in general, and when comparing NAEP to other types of tests, in particular. Perhaps the TIMMS tests are better for international comparisons -- but to what end?
I was a bit annoyed when President Barack Obama said that we have to beat other countries in science and math education. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been saying the same thing. Both Obama and Duncan have suggested that America's economic future is a stake if we fail to enrich math and science education. Yet if our educational prowess is a means to economic dominance, then somebody, somewhere, has to lose. (Besides, it's American capital that is outsourcing, junk-bonding and/or embezzling. Where is American corporations' sense of patriotism? Oh, I digress).
Of course I want America to have a healthy and sustainable approach to education. Yet I thought the purpose of education was to bring us together as a people on the planet. Where are the international content (and instructional) standards that all people, all over the world, are collaborating and reflecting on? When do we say we have to work with people all over the world to develop the wide range of learning experiences that meet all children's needs?
When do we say that teachers, all over the world, have to have the working conditions where they and their students can thrive?