that teachers, administrators, students, and others make about how to organize teaching and learning.

As with the curriculum and instructional practices, the national standards in mathematics and science emphasize the importance of school support systems embedded in the broader culture. The science standards have separate sets of standards for science education systems and for the professional development of science teachers, which are both key elements of school support systems. Similarly, the volume Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1991, p. 2) is based on two premises: "(1) Teachers are key figures in changing the ways in which mathematics is taught and learned in schools. (2) Such changes require that teachers have long-term support and adequate resources."

This chapter does not present particular aspects of the school culture as either good or bad. Rather, it describes a range of options across various dimensions of this culture. The aim is to bring these options to the attention of those responsible for making systemic informed attempts to improve school systems and academic achievement.

This chapter also is selective in its examination of school support systems, examining four particularly important influences on teaching and learning. The first section looks at time—primarily the structuring of teachers' time on a day-to-day level and its impact on collegiality among teachers. The second section examines teacher learning, including preservice preparation, new teachers' experiences, and ongoing professional development. The third section considers cultural influences on teaching, both at the school level and more broadly. The fourth section focuses on students' attitudes toward mathematics and science.


For teachers across all countries, time is both a resource and a constraint. Through the TIMSS questionnaires, teachers outlined how they spend their time during the school week. The case studies of the educational systems in the United States, Germany, and Japan flesh out the picture of teachers' uses of time. While TIMSS did not draw conclusions about the uses of time in U.S. schools, the study demonstrates significant differences among countries that may bear closely on student achievement.

Time Pressures

The nature of teachers' work differs from country to country and among schools, but teachers everywhere say they are very busy.

According to questionnaire responses, teachers routinely spend time outside the formal school day to prepare and grade tests, read and grade student work, plan lessons, meet with students and parents, engage in professional development or reading, keep records, and complete administrative tasks. Fourth-grade teachers in the United States, for example, spent an average of 2.2 hours each week outside the formal school day preparing or grading tests, as well as 2.5 hours planning lessons. Similarly, each week on average their Japanese counterparts spent 2.4 hours on tests and 2.7 hours on lesson plans outside the school day.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement