Thursday, January 26, 2012

The decline of science education in NYC high schools as shown by the falling number of Intel submissions and semi-finalists

These posts about the decline of independent science research at NYC high schools – especially at the less selective non-specialized high schools – were written and researched by NYC parents Steve Koss and Melvin Meer.  For earlier posts by Steve on this discouraging trend, see here and here.
This year's list of Intel Science Talent Search semifinalists has just been announced, and the news for NYC public schools is both good and bad. On the plus side, Stuyvesant HS appears to have regained some of its former Intel mojo with 13 semifinalists, its best year since 2003 when it scored 19 semifinalists. In the last four years, Stuyvesant's numbers had been 11, 10, 9, and 5 (last year), creating a substantial drag on NYC public schools' traditional solid performance in the Intel competition. 
Bronx Science scored 8 semifinalists this year, the same number they had last year. It is worth noting that even for these two science-oriented schools, their average number of semifinalists in the five years before mayoral control were 13.67 for Stuy and 10.33 for Bronx Science; in the nine years from (January) 2004 - 2012, the Bloomberg years, those numbers have been 9.67 (down 29.3%) for Stuyvesant and 6.56 for Bronx Science (down 36.5%).

The most alarming result of this year's Intel competition results is that Stuyvesant (13), Bronx Science (8), and Staten Island Tech (1) were the ONLY NYC public high schools with a semifinalist. The entire rest of the NYC public high school system -- including such traditional STS achievers as Townsend Harris, Murrow, Cardozo, Midwood, and Susan Wagner--had no semifinalists.
Of course, this is only the culmination of a trend that has been readily apparent since Mayor Bloomberg test- and data-driven school policies have practically driven all but the most basic, Regents-required science instruction from our classrooms. The six years before Bloomberg (January 1998 - January 2003) averaged a bit less than six Intel semifinalists per year from public high schools other than Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, and Staten Island Tech. Above is a chart showing the numbers since Bloomberg took over.

While this year's total number of semifinalists shows an improvement over the past several years, even the 22 spots earned by our science high school students is less than it was in all but one of the six years prior to Bloomberg/Klein. For the rest of the city's public high schools, Intel STS appears to be virtually out of reach any more.  
Michael Bloomberg has single-handedly managed nearly to kill advanced science research for most of NYC's public high schools, where once those students' achievements were one of our city's (and those kids') greatest sources of educational pride.   As only George Bush could put it, "Great job, Mikey!!"  -- Steve Koss
 Here's an excerpt from a report I put together last year, with numbers, for our Community Board (Q11).  Queens parents might also want to take notice of the very few specialized high school seats there are in Queens (only 100 entry ones each year) compared with each of the other boroughs.  Queens is a very significant exporter of students to the other boroughs and travel times can be outrageous.

One of the reasons that the City is doing so poorly over the Bloomberg years is that there are many fewer Intel Science submissions from New York City schools lately.  Consider the school by school data  (chart to the right).
These results illustrate the deterioration of science education in the New York City high schools over the last 13 years.  It is bad enough that our brightest kids are not winning in the semi-finalist contest.  Clearly they are not even submitting in the numbers to which we had become accustomed.  That takes faculty mentoring and encouragement that seems no longer there.  -- Mel Meer


Anonymous said...

And how many science teachers rotted in the rubber rooms and now as ATR's? I guess bloomberg's schools(oxymoron you moron!)are so much better now right?

Pogue said...

That lower graph is insane. Again, we are truly in the Dark Ages of NYC education.

Thank you ed-reformers, main-stream media, and invertebrate politicians.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, but the correlation between 'mayoral-control' and decline in research is too simplistic. How has the student body changed over the course of 20 years? Why should students be motivated to do science if other fields are more lucrative? Nevertheless,a very critical point has not been addressed. These students conduct advanced research projects with scientist mentors 'outside' of their classrooms, in laboratories at major universities and medical centers. The decline in student participation in science competitions should also be examined in the context of the research community's woes. Laboratories are facing several stressors and pressures, one of which is an incredibly competitive funding environment as a consequence of federal budget cuts. The current state of affairs sadly precludes the willingness and resources to mentor very bright and motivated high school students. If federal funding for research continues to decline, the impact is felt at every level of our society.