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about the initiative
About the Initiative
  • Strengthening Science Education in California brings together educators, researchers, and others to examine the status of science teaching and learning, and develop recommendations for improving science education in California. Funding for this initiative was generously provided by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
  • Project Partners:
    • Belden Russonello & Stewart
    • Inverness Research
    • Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley
    • SRI International
    • Stone’s Throw Communications
    • The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd
about the research
About the Research
  • Methodology:
    • Survey of district administrators, selected by stratified random sample (N=280)
    • Survey of elementary school principals, selected by random sample (N=168)
    • Survey of elementary school teachers, selected from sampled schools (N=664)
areas of potential
Areas of Potential

Middle schools offer dedicated time for science, yet teachers find it to be insufficient.

Facilities are available, but there are limited funds for supplies and equipment.

Three quarters of teachers have either majored in a science-related field or hold a single-subject credential for teaching science and two thirds of teachers reported having received more than 36 hours of professional development in science over the last three years.

Yet this leaves one quarter of teachers without a science background and more than half of teachers rated the lack of professional development opportunities as a major or moderate challenge on the survey.

the bad news
The Bad News

Students often lack access to science instruction in earlier grades and arrive at middle school underprepared and uninterested in the subject.

Systemic support for science has eroded: Fewer than a third (31%) of school districts have a full-time person dedicated to overseeing science instruction in middle schools.

Teachers report that large classes are more difficult to organize for hands-on lessons and that they limit opportunities for students to conduct experiments.

Just 14 percent of teachers provide a pattern of classroom practices that supports regular engagement in the practices of science.

finding qualified teachers
Finding Qualified Teachers

Principal Assessment of the Degree of Challenge in Finding Qualified Teachers

  • 36% of principals surveyed believed that it is a major or moderate challenge to find qualified science teachers.
  • Principals in low socioeconomic schools reported this more frequently.
lack of student preparation
Lack of Student Preparation

Principals’ Assessment of the Degree of Challenge in Students Not Being Prepared for Middle School Science

  • 47% of principals surveyed believed that lack of student preparation is a major or moderate challenge.
  • Again, this was more frequently reported in low socioeconomic status schools.
for state and local policymakers
For state and local policymakers:
  • Prepare for the Next Generation Science Standards now under development.
  • Focus on elementary science.
  • Ensure that teachers have the professional development and other support needed in order to provide students with a comprehensive, high-quality science program.
for state policymakers
For state policymakers:
  • Examine the state requirements for middle school science teacher preparation to ensure that the path leading to the credential adequately prepares the credential holder to teach rigorous middle school science.
for local policymakers

Provide opportunities for vertical professional learning communities.

Examine the master schedule of middle schools to ensure that sufficient time is devoted to science classes and is scheduled to support high-quality learning experiences in science.

For local policymakers: