Science Teachers: Give Us a National Curriculum—and More Training!

By Sean Cavanagh — August 26, 2009 1 min read
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An informal survey of the nation’s science teachers shows that a majority like the idea of a national curriculum—and crave more professional development. Alas, at the elementary school level, the help they seek appears to be in short supply.

Conducted by the National Science Teachers Association, the survey of 3,500 science professionals found that 53 percent of those polled favored a national curriculum in science, compared with about 41 percent opposed. Interestingly, backing for the idea was stronger among elementary (58 percent) and middle school teachers (59 percent) than among high school science teachers (46 percent) and university/college faculty (40 percent), according to an unpublished breakdown of the results. The vast majority of those surveyed were science teachers, rather than administrators and other school employees, NSTA officials say. (Some more detailed results from the poll can be found here.)

Fifty-eight percent of science teachers said they didn’t have enough professional-development opportunities in the subject. A breakdown of the findings shows that many elementary teachers, 74 percent, say they are being given more PD opportunities in subjects other than science, compared with 60 percent of middle school teachers and 55 percent of high school educators who feel that way.

A few other tidbits:

74 percent of those polled said that comparisons of science performance between countries are important, roughly the same portion who see value in school-to-school comparisons.

—When asked if science was more important as a subject in the country 50 years ago than it is today, a strong majority of those polled, 69 percent, disagreed.

—Just 18 percent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with the direction of education in this country, as opposed to 68 percent who are not.

—When asked which skills are most important for science teaching, 60 percent cited the ability to translate content into learning, followed by 16 percent who said a passion for working with students, and 14 percent who said a passion for science. Only 4 percent cited content knowledge, on its own.

What are the most important messages that you see coming through in the survey?

Photo of elementary science classroom by Michael Dwyer for Education Week.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.