Federal

Parents, Students Feel Less Urgency for Math, Science Upgrades

By Michelle R. Davis — September 19, 2007 4 min read

Though education experts, business leaders, and government officials have largely embraced the drive to raise the level of math and science courses across the country, students and parents are apparently satisfied with a less-rigorous level of instruction in those subjects.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the views of parents and students in Kansas and Missouri by the New York City-based research organization Public Agenda, which found a degree of contentment with current math and science curricula that contrasts sharply with the dissatisfaction expressed by experts.

“What we found when we looked at the views of parents and students was much, much less urgency,” said Jean Johnson, an executive vice president and the director of education insights at Public Agenda.

In the past few years, business leaders have stepped up their complaints about the state of math and science education, and federal lawmakers have ratcheted up their efforts to use legislation to force improvements. Last month, for example, President Bush signed into a law a bill that pushes for improved teacher recruitment and training to bolster math and science education through the use of federal grants. (“’Competitiveness’ Bill to Aid Math, Science Is Signed by President,” Aug. 15, 2007.)

But that heightened concern has not reached parents and students, according to the new report, “Important, But Not for Me: Parents and Students in Kansas and Missouri Talk About Math, Science and Technology Education.”

‘Fine as They Are’

The survey of about 2,600 students and parents found that, overall, only 25 percent of parents think their children should be studying more math and science, and 70 percent think things “are fine as they are now.”

However, minority parents were less satisfied with the math and science education their children received, with 44 percent of African-American parents and 64 percent of Hispanic parents saying they were satisfied, compared with 73 percent of white parents.

Among students, 72 percent said all students should not be expected to take advanced science courses like physics or advanced chemistry.

“There is room for concern here,” said Jodi Peterson, the assistant executive director of legislative and public affairs for the National Science Teachers Association, based in Arlington, Va.

Ms. Peterson cautioned that the survey was limited to one city and results might differ in other areas. Still, she added: “We have a big challenge ahead to educate parents as to why math and science is important for their kids.”

The survey found that parents believe math and science education is rigorous, Ms. Johnson said, because they see their children doing more challenging lessons than they did in school. Sixty-nine percent of parents said math is harder today, while 51 percent said science is harder than when they were in school.

However, both parents and students do believe that basic math and science is critically important, with nine in 10 people surveyed calling it essential. Parents saw algebra as a priority, with 79 percent of parents and 70 percent of students saying algebra is essential.

Knowledge Opens Doors

Margo Quiriconi, the director of education research and policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which cooperated with Public Agenda on the project, said students need to understand that a good grounding in math and science can lead them into high-tech companies in a wide variety of industries, including the animal sciences industry, which has roots in the Kansas City area.

“We need a workforce able to support that generation of new companies,” Ms. Quiriconi said. The Kansas City, Mo.-based Kauffman Foundation runs a program in five counties in the Kansas City region to improve math, science, and technology education, and also provides funding to Education Week for coverage of those topics.

Francis “Skip” Fennell, the president of the Reston, Va.-based National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, said it’s critical that teachers help students understand where intense studying of advanced math and science can lead them, such as to jobs with starting salaries above $75,000, for example, or those in which they crack codes for the U.S. government.

“Students need to know that knowledge of this subject really opens doors,” he said. “A challenge for teachers is always to make this subject interesting and viable to kids.”

A majority of parents surveyed said they believe their children’s teachers make math and science relevant in the real world. Only 20 percent of students blamed poor teaching for students who do not achieve in math and science courses.

One bright spot in the survey: 85 percent of students surveyed said they believe students can learn math and science if they spend the time, instead of seeing that ability as simply a result of innate aptitude.

And students said they were motivated to take advanced math and science courses in high school by several factors, with a majority saying they were spurred on by college requirements, the possibility of scholarships, and the prospect of good jobs and career opportunities.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Miguel Cardona: Schools Must Work to Win Trust of Families of Color as They Reopen
As Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced new school reopening resources, he encouraged a focus on equity and student engagement.
4 min read
Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing Feb. 3, 2021.
Now-U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing in February.
Susan Walsh/AP
Federal CDC: Nearly 80 Percent of K-12, Child-Care Workers Have Had at Least One COVID-19 Shot
About four out of five teachers, school staffers, and child-care workers had first COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of March, CDC says.
2 min read
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11, 2021. Teachers received their first vaccine during an all-day event at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
John Battle High School teacher Jennifer Daniel receives her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 11at the Virginia Highlands Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va.
David Crigger/Bristol Herald Courier via AP
Federal Ed. Dept. to Review Title IX Rules on Sexual Assault, Gender Equity, LGBTQ Rights
The review could reopen a Trump-era debate on sexual assault in schools, and it could spark legal discord over transgender student rights.
4 min read
Symbols of gender.
iStock/Getty
Federal Q&A EdWeek Q&A: Miguel Cardona Talks Summer Learning, Mental Health, and State Tests
In an interview after a school reopening summit, the education secretary also addressed teachers' union concerns about CDC guidance.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a press briefing at the White House on March 17.
Andrew Harnik/AP