A survey conducted by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at the University of California, Berkeley, found only 10 percent of elementary students regularly receive hands-on science lessons, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Just one-third of elementary teachers said they felt prepared to teach science, and educators in the state's Silicon Valley say some students are coming to high schools never having conducted a single science experiment in elementary or middle school.
The lack of science education is reflected in test scores.
In tests by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, California students ranked at the bottom level along with Arizona, Mississippi and Hawaii.
Students well-trained in science, technology, engineering and math -- the disciplines known as STEM -- are critical to the state's economic prosperity, Tom Torlakson, California's superintendent of public instruction, said.
Fifteen of every 20 new jobs in the state require such skills, he said.
"There is a sense of alarm, particularly in the business community, over our low achievement scores in math and science," said Christopher Roe, head of the STEM network. "For a state that depends on science and technology as we do with Silicon Valley and Hollywood, we can't afford to be on the bottom. We have a history in years past as a leader, and we have to get there again."
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