Science is a tough subject for most U.S. students -- so tough that they aren't meeting average proficiency levels in the subject, according to results from a 2009 national science education assessment released Tuesday.

The Nation's Report Card found only about 34 percent of the nation's fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders show competency in science. The majority only have a basic level of understanding.

That got me thinking about how the U.S.'s future -- and its ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace -- depends on American youth being educated problem-solvers. Science is the foundation for health care, technology and understanding the Earth. It encourages students to analyze complex problems and find creative solutions.

If America's youth continue under performing in science, how will U.S. industry be affected? Will we lose the race to build more fuel-efficient cars, for example? Will we become more dependent on other countries to find cures for disease and to introduce new medicines?

The science assessment was given to 156,500 fourth-graders, 151,100 eighth-graders, and 11,100 12th-graders. It measured their knowledge in physical science, life science, and Earth and space sciences.

The framework of the test recently changed to include advances in science, research on science learning, and components from international exams. For that reason, the 2009 test can't be fairly compared to those from previous years. Read the full report.

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