2
The Challenges of Education

To be effective, professionals in K-12 mathematics and science education must have a deep understanding of two cultures—the world of inquiry and problem solving that is central to mathematics and science and the world of facilitating learning in the classroom. This understanding involves three areas: subject-matter or content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and pedagogy (National Research Council (NRC), 1999b). That is, high-quality teachers have expertise in the subject matter they are teaching, in how to teach, and in how to teach a specific subject—teaching English is not the same as teaching mathematics.

THE NEED FOR HIGH-QUALITY TEACHERS

The United States now faces a shortage of teachers, especially of qualified teachers. That shortage has resulted in the hiring of uncertified or underqualified teachers. According to the 1996 study by the National Center on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) (1996), more than 50,000 inadequately prepared teachers enter the profession each year. Just last year, the New York Times (July 1, 2001) reported that 60 percent of the teachers hired for New York City were uncertified (Goodnough, 2001). And the problem is not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future: with some two-thirds of the nation’s K-12 teachers expected to retire or leave the profession over the coming decade, the nation’s schools will need to fill be-



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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology 2 The Challenges of Education To be effective, professionals in K-12 mathematics and science education must have a deep understanding of two cultures—the world of inquiry and problem solving that is central to mathematics and science and the world of facilitating learning in the classroom. This understanding involves three areas: subject-matter or content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and pedagogy (National Research Council (NRC), 1999b). That is, high-quality teachers have expertise in the subject matter they are teaching, in how to teach, and in how to teach a specific subject—teaching English is not the same as teaching mathematics. THE NEED FOR HIGH-QUALITY TEACHERS The United States now faces a shortage of teachers, especially of qualified teachers. That shortage has resulted in the hiring of uncertified or underqualified teachers. According to the 1996 study by the National Center on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) (1996), more than 50,000 inadequately prepared teachers enter the profession each year. Just last year, the New York Times (July 1, 2001) reported that 60 percent of the teachers hired for New York City were uncertified (Goodnough, 2001). And the problem is not likely to be resolved in the foreseeable future: with some two-thirds of the nation’s K-12 teachers expected to retire or leave the profession over the coming decade, the nation’s schools will need to fill be-

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology tween 1.7 million and 2.7 million new teaching positions (National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 1999a). Of those new teaching positions, about 200,000 will be in secondary science and mathematics (NRC, 2000a). In the face of the current shortages of qualified teachers, there is no reason to expect that a significant percentage of the people hired for these positions will be proficient in both subject-matter background knowledge and pedagogy in these subject areas. Among high school physics teachers, for example, 32 percent have a degree in physics or physics education and have taught it on a regular basis, 41 percent have no physics degree, but have extensive physics teaching experience, and 27 percent have no physics degree and little physics teaching experience (American Institute of Physics, 1999). Another report (Ingersoll, 1999) indicates that approximately 33 percent of mathematics teachers and 20 percent of science teachers in grades 7-12 do not have either a major or minor in their field. These underqualified teachers teach more than 26 percent of mathematics students and more than 16 percent of science students. In urban and small rural school systems, especially those with large populations of students in poverty, the percentages of underqualified teachers are even higher. Having well-prepared teachers is central for students’ becoming literate in science, mathematics, and technology. A report by the NCTAF (1996) unequivocally shows the positive effect of better teaching on student learning. Another study, by the Center for the Study of Teaching (Darling-Hammond, 1999), found that the two most consistent and powerful predictors of student achievement in science and mathematics were having teachers who were both fully certified and had a college major in the subject being taught. These findings about the importance of qualified teachers are consistent with research on what experts know and how they can use that knowledge. Teachers with content expertise, like experts in all fields, understand the structure of their disciplines; they thus have cognitive “roadmaps” to guide the assignments they give students, the assessments they use to gauge student progress, and the questions they ask in the give and take of the classroom (NRC, 1999b). Teachers face a further challenge in the classrooms of the twenty-first century: the increasing diversity of the nation’s schoolchildren. The waves of immigration to the United States in the last decades of the twentieth century have filled the schools with children from myriad cultural and ethnic backgrounds; these students have varying degrees of English proficiency when they begin school. Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washing-

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology ton, DC, is the oft-cited example: the children in the school system come from more than 180 different countries and live in homes in which over 100 languages are spoken. To meet the goal of a good education for all children, teachers must have the training and expertise to understand the diverse group of students in their classrooms. NEW APPROACHES FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Although there are many exemplary teachers in the nation’s public and private schools, many other teachers, especially in primary and middle schools, have not received adequate preparation in science and mathematics. For current—and future—teachers who arrive in classrooms with inadequate training, professional development on the job can be a key route to achieving more knowledge and better skills. Particularly in the context of evolving national and state standards in science, mathematics, and technology (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 1993; NRC, 1996b; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989, 2000; International Technology Association, 2000; Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, 2001a), there is an urgent need for both professional development and new instructional materials and curriculum related to science, mathematics, and technology. These standards and related documents (AAAS, 1990; Hurd, 1997; Krajcik, 1999; Alberts, 2000; Minstrell, 2000; NRC, 2000d) call for greater use of teaching through inquiry, problem solving and design. They also call for the teaching of science, mathematics, and technology in a contemporary context that is relevant to students’ lives and experiences. The trend towards using hands-on, inquiry-based activities to teach primary grade-level science and mathematics to students takes advantage of the fact that young children seem predisposed to learn about their world, and it can make learning exciting to teachers and students alike (National Science Resources Center [NSRC], 1997). But most teachers need assistance to implement these new approaches. One source of support for teachers are science, mathematics, and technology supervisors, who serve as curriculum experts, set up resource centers, and provide technical assistance for integrating these hands-on teaching approaches—as well as other learning tools such as computer hardware and software—in K-12 classrooms. Many school districts have such supervisors, who also often help to write grants and pursue other avenues for obtaining resources for schools. These

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology supervisors, like the teachers they support, need to be well qualified in the content of science, mathematics, and technology education as well as in pedagogy. The professional development needs of teachers are the focus of various national efforts. The report of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (2000) (also known as the Glenn Commission, for its chair) called for the nation to establish intensive Mathematics and Science Summer Institutes to provide in-depth professional development to science, mathematics, and technology educators so that they can reach their full potential as teachers. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding Centers for Learning and Teaching (see NSF 2001c), Centers for Advanced Technology Education (see NSF, 2001d), and Mathematics and Science Implementation Centers (see NSF, 2001e) to provide familiarity and implementation assistance with state-of-the-art classroom materials for teachers of science and mathematics. Moreover, a major activity of the Department of Education’s ENC for science and mathematics instructional materials is to get useful education tools into the hands of science, mathematics, and technology teachers (see ENC , 2001b). Other new programs, such as the capacity-building grants funded by the Department of Education, the NSF, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the Interagency Education Research Initiative, call for more thorough dissemination of effective standards-based science, mathematics, and technology instructional materials and for the teacher professional development needed for their implementation (see NSF, 2001f). Activities for teachers’ professional development are changing to reflect growing knowledge about the requirements for improved and effective teaching (see NCTM, 2000). In the past, many professional development activities were based on summer institutes, publisher-provided enhancement for use of their textbooks and other instructional material, and university-based professional development courses. New activities for ongoing professional development for teachers focus more on content updates, experience with exemplary instructional materials, and practice with assessments that are connected to the educational goals of the curriculum. One approach that is in its infancy is support for teachers for activities in the classroom—perhaps, through establishing electronic learning communities among teachers, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. The NSF has recently funded a series of such implementation centers—a series of Cen-

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology ters for Learning and Teaching—and has plans to expand this approach in the years ahead (see NSF, 2000). In addition to institution- and curriculum-based professional development activities, there has been a significant increase in number and quality of community-based centers and activities for informal education, particularly in the last 15 years. For example, the number of open staff positions among members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) increased from about one per year prior to 1975, to about seven per year between 1975 and 1984, to more than ten per year between 1985 and 2001 (ASTC, 2001). These positions include jobs in science, technology, and natural history museums; botanical gardens; aquaria; and environmental centers associated with national, regional, and local parks and nature preserves. These centers have created new and expanded opportunities for professional development for teachers, participation by students in scientific research, and enhanced connections among teachers, students, and scientists. This interface has more recently become a magnet for scientists who see the value of good science for K-12 students. Such centers provide the opportunity to connect researchers with teachers and to promote active learning for teachers and students. The researchers are in a position to convey the excitement of science and provide resources for teachers’ followup activities in the classroom. The teachers bring understanding of new approaches to pedagogy and of how students learn. Schools are also turning to nontraditional sources of help for professional development and teaching materials. New partnerships are being forged among scientists, science educators, and teachers. These partnerships, often facilitated by the use of computers and scientific databases, may be connected with industry, academic institutions, or informal education sites such as museums (see Cohen, 1997; Munn et al., 1999; Sussman, 1993). Some partnerships are developing innovative instructional materials that are disseminated free to teachers, such as those of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2001) and the American Chemical Society (2001). Local science centers, museums, parks, zoos, botanical gardens, and aquaria are using their in-house resources to develop standards-based activities and teaching materials that can supplement standards-based lesson plans. In many instances, industry, academia and these informal educational settings are also partnering with schools to provide teachers’ opportunities for professional development during summers (NRC, 1996c). Many government agencies with science, mathematics and technology mis-

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology sions are developing K-12 educational materials, as well as providing related professional development for teachers (see, for example, NIH, 2001; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 2001; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2001; and U.S. Department of Energy, 2001). In less structured ways as well, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers at local companies often serve as accessible sources of information for teachers. BEYOND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT It is clear that many individuals, organizations, and institutions are developing the resources to enable K-12 science, mathematics, and technology teachers to increase their own knowledge and improve their students’ learning. But it is equally clear that individual programs—even very good ones—scattered across the nation’s more than 16,000 school districts cannot meet the nation’s need for high-quality science, mathematics, and technology education in K-12 classrooms. And even with very good materials and opportunities for professional development, follow-through and continued support for teachers in the classroom are often missing (see NRC, 1999c). A critical way to help provide that support is to build many more direct bridges between the practitioners of science, mathematics, and engineering and K-12 schools, teachers, and students. These bridges can be encouraged and maintained by employing selected individuals in school districts who deeply understand both the culture of science and the very different culture of the schools. On the other side of the divide, similar types of individuals are needed inside institutions rich in science and technology to facilitate the connection of these institutions to school districts and schools. As schematically indicated in Figure 2-1, a few such individuals, strategically placed, can thereby catalyze an enormous increase in the personal contacts and resource flows between the K-12 education system and the vigorous scientific and engineering community in the United States. In summary, there is an urgent need for more permanent connections between two very different worlds: that of science and that of the schools. This need provides one important basis for the committee’s proposed national demonstration program. Before turning to that proposal, in Chapter 4, the next chapter considers the people who could in principle provide the strongest links between the world of science, mathematics, and engineering and the world of schools, teachers, and students.

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Attracting PhDs to K-12 Education: A Demonstration Program for Science, Mathematics, and Technology FIGURE 2-1 Why PhDs trained in the proposed program can serve as ideal connectors between science-rich institutions and schools. Every institution has its own culture, which makes it relatively easy for individuals inside of the same institution to interact. But, it creates serious difficulties for making meaningful connections between two institutions whose cultures are as different as a university science department and a school district. After their training, the PhDs discussed in this report (placed schematically between the dotted lines), share values that allow them to form strong personal bridges between two such institutions. Ideally, some would be employed in school districts and others in science-rich institutions, allowing them to catalyze a broad exchange of information and resources.