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Report: Science Taking a Back Seat in Kansas Classrooms

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TOPEKA, Kan. -  Elementary school kids are getting a grade for science, even though teachers aren't spending much time on it anymore, or even testing kids on the subject, according to a report presented to the Kansas State Board of Education.

Board member Janet Waugh said it's up to each district to allot time for subjects, and it's also up to the district to monitor whether teachers are following those standards.  But apparently, many teachers aren't.

Robots are buzzing around a science fair at Union Station this past weekend, kids are connecting candy and toothpicks and putting together model buildings.  At least one Atchison kid can't get enough.

"So far I think the best part of it is building this. It's kind of cool," Matthew Boyea said.

But no matter how cool science is, 55 percent of 900 elementary school teachers in Kansas are spending less time on it, according to the report by George Griffith, a superintendent of the Trego school district in western Kansas.

The report said science was cut up to an hour per week in classrooms. The report also states this seems to be an ongoing theme around the country, and not just in Kansas. It said the reason was because reading and math became a priority when the No Child Left Behind law was enacted in 2001.

"I knew that they had cut things due to the No Child Left Behind and the emphasis on assessments for reading and math, but I think I was rather surprised that science had been cut that much," Waugh said.

But Waugh said if a national effort  to develop new science standards succeeds, kids will get a narrower and deeper science education. She said that's welcome news because Waugh said kids in her district, which include Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Jefferson and the eastern part of Douglas Counties, are OK, but not where they should be.

"We certainly want to continue moving and I think it needs to be higher, because we want our students to be learning at extremely high levels," Waugh said.

But for Boyea, it's not about learning a lot for now, but he said science is just plain fun.

"Me and my dad like having fun together and stuff," Boyea said.

According to statistics from the Kansas State Board of Education, there are actually less elementary school students needing to reach the science standards this year compared to 2011.  But that number is just point-three percent less.

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