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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.