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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools
these subjects have major implications for the earlier years of schooling and vice versa. Similarly, as introductory college courses evolve and their emphases change (see, for example, NRC, 1999d), it is important to review the secondary courses that precede them.
Teacher shortages—A teacher shortage of immense proportions is projected to emerge in the next few years in many districts. These shortages are likely to be particularly acute for science and mathematics (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, 2000; NCES, 2000b). Teaching in advanced programs requires extensive knowledge of both subject matter content and pedagogical methods. Thus it is unclear how the staffing needed to implement and maintain the quality of these programs will be provided in the future. This problem is especially severe in schools with large populations of minority and poor students, where shortages of qualified science and mathematics teachers are already daunting (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching in the 21st Century, 2000).
Economic forces—The increasing demands of a knowledge-based economy add to the importance of providing advanced courses in mathematics and science for as many students as are motivated and prepared to enroll in them.
Information technology—Advances in information technology are transforming work, teaching, and learning, creating new opportunities for instructional delivery. For example, distance learning is now being used to deliver advanced study programs to schools that have few resources, small student populations, or insufficient numbers of teachers to offer a program within the school.
Assessment—Better understanding of the uses and impact of assessment with regard to classroom dynamics and student learning creates opportunities for fundamentally changing and improving programs of advanced study (see, for example, NRC, 2001a).
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE PROGRAMS
The AP program was launched in 1955 by the College Entrance Examination Board, commonly referred to as the College Board,3 to provide college-level courses for advanced high school students. The program currently consists of 35 courses in 19 subjects, including 11 courses in 7 science and mathematics subjects.4 An individual school can choose to offer any number
The College Board is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization. Membership includes colleges, universities, and secondary schools.