In school, I never did that well in science classes. Thinking back, I realized I always felt I just wasn't good at it; that I couldn't understand it, and perhaps my self-doubt was to blame for my mediocre performance. I'm not sure where my belief that I couldn't excel in science came from. It could have had something to do with cultural messages that girls just aren't good at STEM subjects, but I don't know for sure. Still, it's fair to say the stereotype that girls aren't good at math and science hasn't completely disappeared.
And that is why the results of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (AKA "the nation's report card") are so encouraging. Scores show girls and students of color in the fourth and eighth grades are improving in science.
"Achievement gaps are narrowing because all students are improving. Minority students and girls are making greater gains to narrow these gaps. This is exactly what we like to see: all students improving, but students at the bottom of the distribution making faster gains," elaborates Peggy Carr, National Center for Education Statistics commissioner.
Specifically, eighth-graders, who last took the test in 2011, saw an average scores increase of 2 points And the average scores for fourth-graders increased 4 points since being tested in 2009.
Breaking it down even further, girls in the fourth grade now have the same average science score as boys. (Hooray!)
And while the gap between white students and those of color is narrowing, on average, black students still scored 33 points lower and Hispanic students performed 27 points lower, which is obviously highly concerning.
Twelfth-graders didn't show significant progress or change, but reported taking more science classes.
The takeaway for U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. is, as he says, "More students are prepared to become innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and inventors. And more students are learning how to become the problem-solvers who can tackle our most pressing challenges, making our society and our world a better place for generations to come, no matter what profession they choose."
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.