The numbers don’t lie: Highly qualified science teachers are in short supply in the United States. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, fewer than half the 8th graders in the United States have a science teacher with an undergraduate degree in the field. The percentage is even lower for 8th graders in rural communities: There, only 44 percent have a science teacher with an undergraduate degree in the field. Schools with high concentrations of poverty and students of color also report vacancies in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math—more than in any other subject area.
So it should come as no surprise that while teacher-preparation programs turn out “an abundance” of elementary teachers, programs for prospective science teachers continue to lag behind, as reported by the Center for Public Education.
How do we ensure that all students have access to well-trained and qualified science teachers? Education Week Commentary invited teachers, professors, and teacher-educators across the country to weigh in on this pressing challenge. This special section is supported by a grant from The Noyce Foundation. Education Week retained sole editorial control over the content of this package; the opinions expressed are the authors’ own, however.
What keeps prospective science teachers from entering the classroom? And, once they do, how can education leaders ensure that there is parity in science classrooms across all districts and for all students?
This fall, Michael Marder, a co-founder and co-director of the program UTeach, which prepares STEM undergraduates to become teachers, completed a survey with the American Physical Society of more than6,000 current and recently graduated STEM majors. Among other findings, the survey uncovered that more than half those students are “not at all interested” in teaching middle or high school. In his essay for this special Commentary section, Marder offers his analysis on the cause of this phenomenon and suggestions for how to encourage STEM undergraduates to enter the teaching force.
What qualifications do U.S. 8th graders’ science teachers have?
Sources: National Assessment of Educational Progress; Change the Equation, 2011
In another essay, WestEd researcher Kirsten Daehler notes that ESSA—the Every Student Succeeds Act—calls for top-notch science teachers for all students, but given the troubling numbers, Dahler rightly asks, how do we get there? The answer to this question—and others that are stumping the field—is what each of the authors of this special section contemplates. The voices of those closest to improving science learning—educators and researchers—offer guidance for solving one of the biggest concerns plaguing K-12 education.
The package continues with a round-up of business and education STEM leaders whom the Commentary editors asked: What is missing from this discussion? How can we ensure that all students have access to well-trained science educators?
Science Learning: Under the Microscope is supported by a grant from the Noyce Foundation. Education Week retained sole editorial control over the content of this package; the opinions expressed are the authors’ own, however. -The Editors
A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2016 edition of Education Week as Focusing In on Science Learning