about high school biology, undergraduate biology, community colleges, or medical school.”
Carter pointed out during the ensuing discussion that students who take courses at community colleges constitute roughly half of the undergraduates in the United States. These students can range from 12 to 64 years of age and have widely divergent backgrounds. “You have to be creative,” she said. “You have to think about and find out who is sitting in that classroom in front of you and then think about strategies that are going to motivate and keep each one of those people engaged.”
Improving the subject matter knowledge of teachers was one of the motivations behind the development of UTeach at the University of Texas, said Potts, where undergraduate science majors earn a teaching certificate in four years and are ready to teach high school science when they graduate. Much of the responsibility for the UTeach initiative lies with the university’s science faculty.7 “It’s not any surprise that a lot of high school science teachers don’t really understand science because they’re not science majors in large part, but that’s beginning to change,” Potts noted.
During the general discussion, Schrein briefly summarized a survey on science education in elementary schools of 1,100 teachers, principals, and district administrators at 300 California public schools (Dorph et al., 2011). Only 10 percent of elementary students regularly experience hands-on science practices, according to the survey. The obstacles reported by teachers, principals, and administrators to teaching science include the lack of funds for supplies, not enough time, and insufficient teachers’ training. According to the survey, 40 percent of elementary teachers spend fewer than 60 minutes teaching science per week.
Jay Labov of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, and study director for the NRC report that resulted in the current restructuring of several Advanced Placement science courses, said that the new AP Biology program has the potential to be a game changer. (See Chapter 6 for a description of these changes.) People will be less likely to attack the restructured course’s increased emphasis on evolution as a ”big idea” and ”unifying theme” because AP Biology offers too many benefits in terms of college admissions and credit. Students who take the class may not come to accept evolution, but they will at least learn about the subject. He also emphasized the influence of AP courses on other parts of the high school curriculum as well as on middle schools and postsecondary education.
Finally, Maxine Singer and several other people pointed to the impor-
7Additional information about UTeach is available at http://uteach.utexas.edu. This model has been promulgated through the National Mathematics and Science Initiative (http://nationalmathandscience.org) and is now available at universities across the United States.