It’s bad news on the science front—at least when it comes to education. Two-thirds of United States fourth graders were not proficient in science in 2009.

The situation wasn’t much better for older students.  Seventy percent of eighth-graders and 79 percent of 12th graders were not proficient in science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Worse yet, some student population subsets bear the bulk of the poor performance, with white and Asian students performing significantly better than Hispanic and black students.

This is all according to this article in The Washington Post.

The article also says that many students don’t even reach basic levels (the level below proficient) of understanding when it comes to science.

According to the Post article, the following are some examples of what students should understand to have a basic understanding of science materials:

“A fourth-grader should be able to explain the benefit of an adaptation for an organism, an eighth-grader should be able to relate oxygen level to atmospheric conditions at higher elevations, and a 12th-grader should be able to solve a design problem related to the electrical force between objects,” the article stated.

Twenty-eight, 37, and 40 percent of fourth, eighth, and 12th graders respectively did not achieve a basic level of understanding on the required materials. The good news is that Virginia exceeded the national average when it came to students in the fourth and eighth grades. Still, there is much work to be done for everyone.

It seems almost cliché at this point to complain about the poor state of our nation’s education system. For years, it seems, we have been hearing about poorly performing schools, achievement gaps and the need to do something more. One solution is to throw money at the problem; but, in a land of limited resources, that is not a reasonable option.

This is where parents come in. Students who have interested and helpful parents often thrive in the classroom. In fact, a good, engaged parent can be a great equalizer for students who are falling behind.

There is only so much control parents have over their students’ education. Unless you can afford private school, or can move to a better neighborhood, your child will be assigned a school by your district. The teacher your child gets, the number and quality of his or her classmates, and the level of support from the school are all variables left somewhat to chance. The one piece of control you can exert as a parent is to be involved. Help your children with their homework. Stay alert to see if they are falling behind. Talk to teachers when necessary. Being involved will go a long way to ensuring students’ success.