2
The Education Context

Key Points

  • High school students’ science achievement nationwide is not impressive and has not changed substantially in three decades.

  • The national and state policy environment of science education is complex and interconnected. This complex landscape must be taken into account when reconsidering the role of laboratory experiences in high school science.

  • Currently, policies influencing high school science education are not well aligned. Some policies and practices may constrain efforts to improve high school science laboratory experiences.

This chapter provides an overview of current trends in science education and the key policies influencing science education. Understanding this context helps to reveal the dynamics that have shaped current high school laboratory experiences and may influence new approaches to high school science laboratories. The first section of this chapter describes current trends in science achievement and the changing student population. Against this backdrop, the second section identifies and briefly summarizes the array of national and state policies that shape science education. Whenever possible,



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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science 2 The Education Context Key Points High school students’ science achievement nationwide is not impressive and has not changed substantially in three decades. The national and state policy environment of science education is complex and interconnected. This complex landscape must be taken into account when reconsidering the role of laboratory experiences in high school science. Currently, policies influencing high school science education are not well aligned. Some policies and practices may constrain efforts to improve high school science laboratory experiences. This chapter provides an overview of current trends in science education and the key policies influencing science education. Understanding this context helps to reveal the dynamics that have shaped current high school laboratory experiences and may influence new approaches to high school science laboratories. The first section of this chapter describes current trends in science achievement and the changing student population. Against this backdrop, the second section identifies and briefly summarizes the array of national and state policies that shape science education. Whenever possible,

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science in discussing each policy or program, we discuss its possible implications for laboratory experiences. RECENT TRENDS IN U.S. SCIENCE EDUCATION Policy makers, scientists, and educators have expressed growing concern about the nation’s scientific literacy and the international competitiveness of its science and technology workforce. Here we describe recent trends in public understanding of science and in high school science education, which provides the foundational knowledge for the next generation of scientists and engineers. Public Understanding of Science Major science education reports published in the 1990s advocated broad scientific literacy for all students, including understanding of science concepts and of the processes and nature of science (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993; National Research Council, 1996). This type of broadly defined scientific literacy is an essential part of a liberal education. It can provide a strong knowledge base for high school graduates, preparing them for further science and technology education and also to work and live as citizens in an increasingly technological society. The available evidence suggests, however, that levels of scientific literacy are low and improving them is a slow and difficult process. Northwestern University Professor Jon Miller has developed a systematic approach to defining and measuring public scientific literacy, in surveys conducted for the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the past two decades (Miller, 2004). Defining scientific literacy as the level of understanding required to read and comprehend the science section of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or other comparable major newspapers and magazines, Miller uses several measures of this understanding (Miller, 2004). The survey results reveal slight improvements in public understanding of science. The percentage of U.S. adults with a minimal understanding of the nature of scientific research (From your point of view, what does it mean to study something scientifically?) increased from 12 percent in 1957 to 21 percent in 1999. The fraction of U.S. adults who understood experimentation, including the reasons for using control and experimental groups in medical research, also grew, from 22 percent in 1993 to 35 percent in 1999. Over the past 15 years, Miller and colleagues studied public understanding of four specific scientific concepts—molecules, DNA, radiation, and the nature of the universe—that often appear in news stories but are rarely explained in depth. They found that understanding of these concepts is slowly increasing but remains low. For example, the percentage of U.S.

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science adults who were able to provide a correct explanation of a molecule increased from 11 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 1999. Compiling several of these measures into an overall measure of civic scientific literacy, Miller concluded that the percentage of U.S. adults who are scientifically literate grew from 10 percent in the late 1980s to 17 percent in 1999 (Miller, 2004). Despite this low level of scientific understanding, however, the surveys indicate that large majorities of adults continue to believe that scientific research is valuable for economic prosperity and quality of life. Science Achievement in Secondary School The low level of public understanding of science may be related to the quality of high school science education, including the laboratory experiences that are a part of that education. Results from three written tests—the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)—indicate little or no improvement in high school students’ science achievement over the past 30 years. Although high school science laboratories could potentially contribute to improvement in the science achievement of U.S. students, current large-scale achievement tests are not capable of measuring progress toward all of the goals of laboratory experiences. The committee identified several educational goals that high school laboratory experiences should help students attain. They include (1) enhancing mastery of science subject matter, (2) developing scientific reasoning, (3) understanding the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work, (4) developing practical skills, (5) understanding of the nature of science, (6) cultivating interest in science and in learning science, and (7) developing teamwork abilities (see Chapter 3 for a detailed discussion of each goal). Results of National Science Achievement Tests The NAEP includes two components—trend NAEP, which includes test items in science and other subjects, that has been administered many times over the past three decades, and NAEP subject-matter tests, which reflect current expectations for student learning in science and other subjects (National Research Council, 1999). The performance of 17-year-olds on the science portion of the long-term trend NAEP provides some indication of the extent to which they have attained one of the goals of laboratory experiences—enhancing mastery of science subject matter. Although the test framework calls for measuring not only students’ mastery of subject matter but also their ability to conduct

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science FIGURE 2-1 Long-term trends in average scale scores in science from NAEP. NOTE: Dashed lines represent extrapolated data. SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 1999 Long-Term Trend Assessment. inquiries and solve problems and their understanding of the nature of science (U.S. Department of Education, 2001), the test itself is composed entirely of selected-response items and emphasizes mastery of science subject matter. The long-term trend NAEP does not fully measure complex cognitive abilities that may be developed through laboratory experiences, such as the development of scientific reasoning and understanding of the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work (National Research Council, 1999). The national average of scores of 17-year-olds on the science portion of the long-term trend NAEP assessment was lower in 1999 than 30 years earlier in 1969.1 In contrast to this slight decline in 17-year-olds’ scores, the average national scores of 13-year-olds and 9-year-olds increased very slightly over the 30-year period (see Figure 2-1). The overall trend for all ages suggests that U.S. students’ science knowledge has not increased over the past three decades. Student scores on the science portion of the long-term trend NAEP varied by racial/ethnic group and by gender. In 1999, white students had higher average scores than their black and Hispanic peers. Between 1970 and 1999, the gap between white and black students in science generally narrowed for 9- and 13-year-olds, but not for 17-year-olds, and the gap between white 1   Students’ scores on the long-term NAEP assessment are reported as average scale scores and also in terms of proficiency levels (basic, proficient, advanced). However, because a National Research Council committee that studied NAEP found the process for setting these proficiency levels to be flawed, they are not reported here (National Research Council, 1999).

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science and Hispanic students of all ages remained unchanged. In 1999, boys out-performed girls in science at ages 13 and 17, but not at age 9. Among 17-year-olds, the score gap between boys and girls has narrowed since 1969 (Campbell, Hombo, and Mazzeo, 2000). Like the long-term trend NAEP, the NAEP science achievement test focuses primarily on mastery of subject matter. Between 1996 and 2000, the average score of 12th grade students on this test declined from 154 to 150 (a small but statistically significant amount), while the scores of 4th grade and 8th grade students remained unchanged (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001a). Student performance on the NAEP science achievement test also varied by race and by students’ socioeconomic status. In both 1996 and 2000, the average score for white students was higher than the average for black and Hispanic students. Students of lower socioeconomic status, as indicated by their eligibility for free or reduced-price meals, had lower average NAEP science scores than students from more wealthy families (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001b). Results of International Comparative Tests Results of international comparisons provide additional insight into the science knowledge of U.S. high school students. TIMSS assessed the science performance of 8th graders in the United States and many other countries in 1995, 1999, and 2003. Over that time period, U.S. 8th graders improved their average science performance slightly, both in comparison with the earlier cohorts of 8th graders and relative to the 44 other countries that participated in the studies (Gonzales et al., 2004). The average scale score in science increased from 513 in 1995 to 527 in 2003, placing the United States well above the international average of 473 among all 8th graders in all participating nations. Like the framework of the NAEP science achievement test, the TIMSS framework includes both a range of science subject matter and also student abilities related to scientific inquiry and investigations. However, with fewer performance tasks than the NAEP science achievement test, TIMSS may be more limited in its capacity to measure student attainment of the other goals of laboratory experience, besides mastery of subject matter (Owen, 2005). Results from another international comparative test, PISA, suggest U.S. high school students have not increased their science achievement. In 2000 and 2003, 15-year-old students in many countries took two-hour PISA tests that focused primarily on reading (in 2000) and mathematics (in 2003) and also included some items related to scientific literacy. The U.S. scientific literacy score was below the average among OECD countries in 2000 and in 2003, and there was no measurable change in U.S. students’ scores between the two years (Lemke et al., 2004). The PISA science test framework includes

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science several elements that are aligned with the goals of laboratory experiences, including knowledge of science concepts and the ability to apply this knowledge to describe, explain, and predict scientific phenomena; to understand scientific investigations; and to interpret scientific evidence and conclusions. About half of the test items asked students to perform tasks that reflected applications of scientific knowledge to life and health, the environment, and technology, while the other half were selected-response items (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2004). Overall, then, results from large-scale national and international tests indicate that U.S. high school students have made little or no progress in mastery of science subject matter. Such mastery might be attained through laboratory experiences or through other forms of science instruction, including reading, lectures, discussion, and work with computers. The tests yield little information about the extent to which U.S. high school students may have attained other educational goals of laboratory experiences. High School Science and Undergraduate Science Achievement Policies aimed at improving science education are designed in part to prepare more U.S. high school students to enter higher education in science and engineering degrees, in preparation for careers in these fields. The U.S. science and technology workforce is aging, and global competition for skilled scientists and engineers is growing (National Science Foundation, 2004). Many undergraduate science and engineering students do not complete their degrees. Among first-year students who declared majors in science and engineering in 1990, fewer than half had completed such a degree within five years. Among those who did not complete such a degree, approximately 20 percent of the students dropped out of college, and the remainder chose other fields of study (Huang, Taddese, and Walter, 2000). Although students drop out of scientific and technology majors for a variety of complex, individual reasons, one important reason may be that their high school science education, including their laboratory experiences, did not adequately prepare them for undergraduate education. A survey conducted in 2002 indicated that 20 percent of first-year students planning to major in science and engineering fields needed remediation in mathematics, and nearly 10 percent reported needing remediation in the sciences (National Science Foundation, 2004). In a recent study of student scores from its widely used college admissions test, the American College Testing Service found that only 26 percent of students tested in 2003-2004 were ready to pass their first college biology course with a grade of “C” or better (American College Testing Service, 2004). Little research is available on the role that laboratory experiences may

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science play in preparing students to succeed in undergraduate science education. However, one study is available (Sadler and Tai, 2001). The authors surveyed nearly 2,000 undergraduate physics students at public and private institutions and compared their undergraduate physics grades with their high school physics experiences. The analysis of the survey findings indicates that, when demographic factors were controlled, taking a high school physics course had a modest positive effect on undergraduate physics grades. The researchers also found that students who took high school physics courses that spent more time addressing fewer topics in depth (including fewer concepts, topics, and laboratory activities) had higher undergraduate physics grades than students whose high school physics courses covered more topics in less depth. The authors suggest that high school physics teachers should concentrate on a limited set of topics related to mechanics and include laboratory experiences carefully chosen to reflect those topics. They note, “Doing fewer lab experiments can be very effective if those performed relate to critical issues and students have the time to pursue them fully” (Sadler and Tai, 2001, p. 126). These findings suggest that laboratory experiences may be more effective in supporting student learning when they are integrated into the stream of science instruction, as we discuss further in Chapter 3. Rising Enrollments and Increasing Diversity Trends in public understanding of science and science achievement are influenced by larger changes in the U.S. education system. Rising immigration—the total immigrant population of the U.S. nearly tripled from 1970 to 2000—and the baby boom echo—the 25 percent increase in the number of annual births that began in the mid-1970s and peaked in 1990—are boosting school enrollment. After declining during the 1970s and early 1980s, enrollment in public schools increased in the latter part of the 1980s and the 1990s, reaching an estimated 48.0 million in 2003 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004d). With rising enrollments, some science teachers face large classes. In California, total statewide enrollment in kindergarten through 12th grade grew from 5.2 million in 1992-1993 to 6.3 million in 2003-2004 (California Education Data Partnership, 2005). In recent years, the average size of science classes grew from 29.3 students in 2000-2001 to 30.1 students in 2003-2004 (California Education Data Partnership 2005).2 2   California and other states also report pupil-teacher ratios. This ratio is different from average class size because it is the number of pupils per full-time-equivalent teacher, including teachers who are not in the regular classroom. The pupil-teacher ratio in California high schools declined slightly from 24.5 in 1992-1993 to 23.5 in 2003-2004 (California Education Data Partnership, 2005).

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science Linguistic and Ethnic Diversity In concert with these growing enrollments, student diversity has increased. The total proportion of public school students considered to be part of a minority group increased from 17 percent in 1972 to 39 percent in 2000, largely due to rapid growth in the proportion of Hispanic students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004b). At the same time, poor and minority students are increasingly concentrated in high-poverty schools. Anthropologists have suggested that groups who are underrepresented in the scientific and technology professions constitute a culture that is different from the culture prevailing in school and in the scientific community (Costa, 1995). Such students cross cultural borders from the world of their peers and family into the world of school science, and conflicts between these different cultures may detract from their learning of science (Cobern and Aikenhead, 1998). They bring everyday knowledge and ways of thinking and talking developed in their home cultures that are rarely acknowledged or used in school (Heath, 1989; Lee, 2000). Researchers have found that teachers who focus on identifying this everyday knowledge can tap it in ways that support students in developing understanding of science concepts (Warren et al., 2001). A recent review of the research on science education and student diversity concluded that diverse science students may benefit from special support in learning and using scientific language, in becoming comfortable with the community of school science learners, in understanding scientific concepts and modes of thinking, and in developing trusting relationships with other students and the teacher (Lee and Luykx, in press). The authors suggest that laboratory experiences may be particularly valuable in helping the many children of immigrants who are not proficient in English develop improved understanding of science. Students’ direct interactions with natural phenomena often require less formal academic language than does reading a textbook or other forms of science instruction. In addition, small-group laboratory experiences can provide structured opportunities for developing language proficiency in a more comfortable environment than speaking in front of the whole class (Lee and Luykx, in press). Special Educational Needs In addition to being more racially and linguistically diverse than previous generations of students, today’s students also vary more widely in terms of special educational needs. The fraction of students served by federally funded programs for children with disabilities rose from 8.3 percent in 1976-1977 to 13.4 percent in 2001-2002 (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). Some of the rise since 1976-1977 may be attributed to the increasing propor-

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science tion of students identified as learning disabled, whose share of those with disabilities increased from 21 percent in 1976-1977 to 44 percent in 2001-2002. In 2001-2002, most students with disabilities were those with learning disabilities (44 percent), speech or language impairments (17 percent), mental retardation (9 percent), and emotional disturbance (7 percent). Smaller percentages of students received services for visual, hearing, orthopedic, mobility, or other disabilities. Mainstreaming of these special needs students has increased in response to federal law. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (P.L. 105-17, most recently amended on December 3, 2004), other federal and state laws, and a substantial body of case law give students with disabilities the right to a free and appropriate public education (National Research Council, 1997). The law requires that this education be tailored to individual learning needs, and that each student have an individualized education program stating educational objectives and identifying strategies to attain those objectives. In compliance with the legal requirement to educate disabled students in the “least restrictive environment,” more disabled students are in regular classrooms. Between 1988-1989 and 1999-2000, the percentage of students with disabilities spending at least 80 percent of their time in a regular education classroom increased from 31 to 47 percent (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002). The provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requiring that students be placed in the least restrictive setting apply to science laboratory facilities and experiences. In order to provide disabled students with access to laboratory experiences, schools may provide accommodations in laboratory instruction, in the physical design of the laboratory or classroom, or in the ways in which students demonstrate their knowledge of science (Keller, 2002). The level of student involvement in various laboratory activities and the types of accommodations required are often best determined in discussions between the individual teacher and student (Center for Rehabilitation Technology and IMAGINE Group, 2004). For example, students with learning disabilities may be provided with the course syllabus in advance, may receive extended time for completion of laboratory reports, or may be seated close to the teacher. A student with hearing impairment may be helped by the use of visual aids, while accommodations for students with visual impairment include large lettering, a magnifying glass, and a large notebook (Center for Rehabilitation Technology and IMAGINE Group, 2004). Laboratory experiments modified for students with disabilities are available online (Center for Rehabilitation Technology and IMAGINE Group, 2004), and other resources are available to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities (see for example, Turner, 2004; Miner, Swanson, and Woods, 2001).

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science Although research on effective approaches to science education for diverse students—including those with limited English proficiency, minority students, low-achieving science students, and students with learning disabilities—is growing, meeting the needs of individual students remains a great challenge for teachers and schools. Chapter 3 discusses promising approaches to laboratory instruction that appear to enhance learning among all students, including those with limited English proficiency, minorities, and low-achieving students. POLICIES INFLUENCING HIGH SCHOOL LABORATORY EXPERIENCES Over the past 20 years, the states, the federal government, school districts, and the scientific community have launched an array of efforts to improve science education that may influence high school laboratory experiences. State education policies, including requirements for high school graduation and college admission, science standards, and assessments may affect laboratory instruction. Scientific professional associations, agencies, and research institutions have also developed science education programs and policies, some of which focus specifically on high school laboratories. State High School Graduation Requirements High school graduation requirements are one “policy driver” influencing the extent to which high school students enroll in science courses and participate in science laboratory experiences. Between 1982 and 2000, most states increased the number of science courses required for graduation; in response, a growing percentage of high school students completed science courses beyond general biology (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004a). Because most high school science teachers engage students in laboratory experiences at least once per week (Smith et al., 2002), the trend toward taking more science courses translates to an increase in the amount of time the average high school student spends in laboratory experiences (see Chapter 4). Some states specifically require students to complete laboratory science courses in order to graduate. In 2004, 13 states explicitly mentioned enrollment in a laboratory science course as part of the regular high school graduation requirement (Table 2-1). Of these, five states—Florida, Indiana, New York, South Dakota, and Virginia—required more than one laboratory science course. In addition to these 13 states, 3 states (Arkansas, Kentucky, and Rhode Island) required labs only for an optional college preparatory curriculum or advanced diploma.

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science TABLE 2-1 State Science Laboratory Requirements for High School Graduation in 2004 State Laboratory Requirement Arkansas College prep only—3 lab courses District of Columbia 1 lab course Florida 2 lab courses Idaho 1 lab course Indiana 2 science courses (state standards indicate all science courses are to include laboratory activities) Kansas 1 lab course Kentucky College prep only—1 lab course Maine 1 lab course Maryland 1 lab course New Mexico 1 lab course New York 2 lab courses Pennsylvania 1 lab course Rhode Island College prep only—1 lab course South Dakota 2 lab courses Virginia 3 lab course (4 lab courses for college prep) Washington 1 lab course SOURCE: Compiled from Sommerville and Yi (2002); Council of Chief State School Officers (2002); state web sites. State Requirements for Higher Education Admissions College and university entrance requirements influence the high school curriculum in general and may also influence individual students’ decisions about enrolling in science courses, including laboratory science courses. Public and private colleges and universities have varying entrance requirements, but many states have established somewhat uniform standards for entrance into state-supported institutions of higher education. In 2002, 30 states had established the minimum number of courses that students must complete in each discipline to gain admission to public four-year institutions, and 29 required students to have completed at least 2 years of science. Among these 29 state higher education systems, 21 required that at least one of the science courses be a laboratory course (Sommerville and Yi, 2002). Among the 21 states that did not require any specific science courses for admission to higher education, many did require a high school diploma, with its attendant requirements for science courses, sometimes including laboratory courses. Over the past three decades, the number of high school graduates going directly on to higher education has grown. By 2001, an average of 62 percent of all high school graduates entered colleges or universities (National

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science students in laboratory experiences. The limited evidence available suggests that some curriculum materials are available to support teachers and students in effective laboratory experiences, but these materials are not widely used. The most widely used science texts and accompanying laboratory materials do not reflect the science learning goals of laboratory experiences. Involving teachers in the design, selection, and implementation of curriculum materials and providing professional development aligned with those materials appear essential for successful implementation (Tushnet et al., 2000). The Role of the Scientific Community Policies and programs initiated by the scientific community may also influence high school laboratory experiences. NSF evaluates research proposals and provides funding based not only on intellectual merit but also on “broader impact” (including impact on education), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) requires that a small percentage of funds for each large space mission be set aside for public outreach, including education. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy also support programs aimed at improving high school science education. Many scientific societies, including the American Chemical Society, the American Physiological Society, and the American Institute of Biological Sciences, are also working to improve science education. Congress provides a stream of funding for partnerships between scientists and educators through the Math-Science Partnerships programs, and private agencies, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), also support efforts to improve school science education. In addition, many individual scientists, companies, universities, teachers, and schools are working together to improve high school science courses, including laboratory teaching and learning. To date, however, there has been no systematic effort to assess the scope of these diverse activities and their impact on the science achievement of high school students. The committee identified several types of efforts by the scientific community that may influence high school laboratory experiences, including programs designed to (1) provide laboratory-centered curricula for use in high schools, (2) provide laboratory facilities and equipment to schools, (3) provide research internships to students and teachers, and (4) provide undergraduate education and professional development to prospective and current science teachers. Here we briefly discuss efforts focused on schools and students; the scientific community’s role in teacher education is discussed in Chapter 5.

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science Providing Laboratory-Focused Curriculum Scientific agencies and professional societies support development and dissemination of high school science curricula. For example, NSF has supported the American Geological Institute, the American Chemical Society, and the American Institute of Physics in developing and disseminating high school science curricula that incorporate laboratory experiences (Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, 2001). Unlike traditional texts that may be accompanied by a separate laboratory manual, these curricula integrate laboratory experiences into the flow of instruction. The American Geological Institute is also producing a series of DVDs for use in schools that encompass the U.S. Geological Survey’s Global Geographic Information System database (Smith, 2004). The Association for Biology Laboratory Education publishes an online Labstracts newsletter that provides a variety of laboratory exercises (Association for Biology Laboratory Education, 2005). Although many of these laboratory exercises are provided by undergraduate educators, they can be used by high school teachers as well. Other scientific and teaching societies, in each of the science disciplines, are engaged in similar efforts. Providing Laboratory Facilities and Equipment One concrete way in which the scientific community can support high school laboratory experiences is through providing laboratory facilities and equipment. A few such efforts are described here. San Mateo, California, high school teacher Ellyn Daugherty developed the San Mateo Biotechnology Career Pathway program at San Mateo High School with the help of many local biotechnology companies and foundations. Support from biotechnology firms helped in converting a shop classroom into a large, modern biotechnology classroom and in providing necessary equipment and supplies. Currently, 20 industry partners provide internships to advanced high school students enrolled in the program (Daugherty, 2004). These firms often hire graduates of the high school program, either directly after high school or after two to four years of further biotechnology or biology education. With support from federal, state, and private agencies, scientists at higher education institutions in several states have designed and equipped mobile laboratories to serve students in schools that lack adequate science facilities (see Chapter 6). For example, during the 1999-2000 school year, the chemistry department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) developed a mobile chemistry laboratory to help rural teachers and students respond to Virginia’s science standards and assessments, called the Standards of Learning (SOL). The chemistry department convened meetings of teachers from rural high

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science schools in Appalachia and southern Virginia to design and evaluate a series of laboratory experiments aligned with the chemistry SOLs. The following summer, a team of VPI staff, including two chemistry teachers, a lab technician, and an administrative assistant, led the first of a continuing series of summer workshops to train teachers on the experiments and instrumentation available on the van. The VPI team also developed kits of chemistry experiments that did not require advanced instrumentation and began mailing them to rural schools. Chemistry teachers and students at 19 rural Virginia high schools and two inner-city Richmond schools conducted the experiments included in the mobile van four times during the academic year and also received four to six chemistry kits for each of three years, beginning in the 2001-2002 school year. During the summers, more than 63 teachers were trained in leading the experiments included on the van. Before the mobile van program was initiated, students in these 19 schools performed on average 15.6 percent lower than the state average on the chemistry SOL. In 2003, the average among these 19 schools was 1.2 points above the state average, with particularly large gains in two inner-city Richmond schools with large minority populations. Attendance also improved on the days the mobile van was present, but without a comparison group it is not possible to know whether the mobile van or other factors may have accounted for the improvements in test scores and attendance (Long, 2004). However, the Virginia Tech program, which relied on a combination of federal, corporate, private, and university grants—could not be sustained and was ended in the summer of 2004. The Virginia program was modeled on the Science in Motion program of Juniata College that serves rural schools in Pennsylvania. An independent evaluation of the Juniata program conducted in 1999 found statistically significant gains in biology and chemistry achievement test scores among students served by the program when compared with students in schools without access to the program (Mulfinger, 2004). Providing Student Internships Scientists have provided laboratory internships to high school students for many years. One scientist who involved high school students in a 1955 summer program in the departments of biochemistry and physiological chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, described them as “enthusiastic, hard-working and intelligent laboratory assistants—well worth the time and cost of training” (Pardee, 1956, p. 725). Scientific agencies and foundations, as well as individual science departments, support such programs. For example, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute provides funding for high school students and teachers in the Montgomery County, Maryland, public

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science schools to study and work in laboratories at the NIH alongside some of the world’s leading biomedical scientists. Students who participate in this research program present their results at an annual symposium at HHMI headquarters. In addition to hosting these interns, NIH provides supplements to research grants for the purpose of providing internships to underrepresented minorities. The National Human Genome Research Institute of NIH also provides summer internships to high school students. Such internship opportunities are not restricted to large, government laboratory settings such as NIH. The Noble Foundation supports summer research internships in applied agriculture and plant science for high school students in Oklahoma (Noble Foundation, 2005). Laboratory internships are often designed to encourage disadvantaged or minority high school students to choose science careers. The American Chemical Society’s Project SEED provides students with summer research internships guided by scientist-mentors. Students who are eligible and qualified may participate in Summer I internships before their senior year, in Summer II internships in the summer following graduation, and they may receive first-year college scholarships to study chemistry (American Chemical Society, 2005). Studies indicate that having personal contact with a scientist affects students’ preference for and persistence in science careers, and that minority students may be especially encouraged to persist in science studies by contact with minority scientists and engineers (Hill, Pettus, and Hedin, 1990; Barton, 2003). SUMMARY Most people in this country lack the basic understanding about science that they need to make informed decisions about the many scientific issues affecting their lives. Neither this basic understanding—often referred to as scientific literacy—nor an appreciation for how science has shaped society and culture—is being cultivated during the high school years. For example, over the 30 years between 1969 and 1999, high school students’ scores on the science portion of the NAEP remained stagnant. State policies regarding student laboratory experiences, including graduation requirements, higher education requirements, state science standards, and assessments, do not always support effective laboratory teaching and learning. Although state science standards could be used as flexible frameworks to guide schools and teachers in integrating laboratory experiences with the teaching of science concepts, this rarely happens. Instead, state and local officials and science teachers often see state standards as requiring them to help students master the specific science topics outlined for a grade level or science course. State science standards that are interpreted as encouraging the teaching of extensive lists of science topics in a given grade

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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science may discourage teachers from spending the time needed for effective laboratory learning. Some state science standards call for students to engage in laboratory experiences and to attain other goals of laboratory experiences, such as developing scientific reasoning and understanding the nature of science. However, assessments in these states rarely include items designed to measure student attainment of these goals. Current large-scale assessments are not designed to accurately measure student attainment of all of the goals of laboratory experiences. Developing and implementing improved assessments to encourage effective laboratory teaching would require large investments of funds. REFERENCES American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993). Benchmarks for science literacy. Washington, DC: Author. American Association for the Advancement of Science. (2000). Big biology books fail to convey big ideas, Reports AAAS’s Project 2061. Washington, DC: Author. Available at: http://www.project2061.org/press//pr000627.htm [accessed Sept. 2004]. American Chemical Society. (2005). High school-project seed. Available at: http://www.chemistry.org/portal/a/c/s/1/acsdisplay.html?DOC=education%5Cstudent%5Cprojectseed.html [accessed Jan. 2005]. American College Testing Service (ACT). (2004). Crisis at the core: Preparing all students for college and work. Iowa City, IA: Author. Available at: http://www.act.org/path/policy/index.html [accessed Dec. 2004]. Association for Biology Laboratory Education. (2005). Labstracts: Newsletter of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. Available at: http://www.zoo.utoronto.ca/able/news/winter05/index.html [accessed May 2005]. Barton, P.E. (2003). Hispanics in science and engineering: A matter of assistance and persistence. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service. Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. (2001). Profiles in science: A guide to NSF-funded high school instructional materials. Colorado Springs, CO: Author. California Education Data Partnership. (2005). Ed-data: Fiscal, demographic, and performance data on California’s K-12 schools. Sacramento: Author. Available at: http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/ [accessed May 2005]. California State Board of Education. (2004). Investigation and experimentation-grades 9 to 12: Science content standards. Sacramento: Author. Available at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/scinvestigation.asp. Campbell, J.R., Hombo, C., and Mazzeo, J. (2000). NAEP 1999—Trends in academic progress: Three decades of student performance: Executive summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Available at: http://www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard//pubs/main1999/2000469.asp [accessed Dec. 2004]. Carvallas, E. (2004). Remarks made to the NRC Teacher Advisory Council meeting, March 3, Washington, DC.

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