About the Initiative Strengthening Science Education in California brings together educators, researchers, and others to examine the status of science

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  • About the InitiativeStrengthening 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 & StewartInverness ResearchLawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, BerkeleySRI International Stones Throw CommunicationsThe Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd

  • About the ResearchMethodology: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)

  • Key Findings

  • Areas of PotentialMiddle 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 NewsStudents 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 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.Principal Assessment of the Degree of Challenge in Finding Qualified Teachers

    Chart2

    6022.917.10

    26.529.432.411.8

    45.518.2333.3

    34.317.12028.6

    Not a challenge

    Minor challenge

    Moderate challenge

    Major challenge

    Schoolwide Socioeconomic Status

    Percentage of Principals

    Poverty

    Grade 5Grade 8Grade 10

    Lowest quartile75%74%63%

    Second lowest quartile54%60%49%

    Second highest quartile39%48%38%

    Highest quartile30%39%30%

    Exhibit X: Percent(age) Proficient or Advanced on CST Science by Poverty Quartile

    Questions

    1) Where do you want the legend?

    2) Legend boxed?

    3) Hort and Vert titles?

    Poverty

    000

    000

    000

    000

    Grade 5

    Grade 8

    Grade 10

    Statewide poverty quartiles

    Average percent proficient and advanced

    75

    54

    39

    30

    74

    60

    48

    39

    63

    49

    38

    30

    Minority

    Grade 5Grade 8Grade 10

    Lowest quartile68%67%58%

    Second lowest quartile56%61%49%

    Second highest quartile41%50%40%

    Highest quartile33%43%32%

    Exhibit X: Percent(age) Proficient or Advanced on SCT Science by Minority Quartile

    Questions

    1) Where do you want the legend?

    2) Legend boxed?

    3) Hort and Vert titles?

    Minority

    000

    000

    000

    000

    Grade 5

    Grade 8

    Grade 10

    Statewide minority quartiles

    Average percent proficentand advanced

    68

    56

    41

    33

    67

    61

    50

    43

    58

    49

    40

    32

    Proficient

    200620072008200920105th grade

    Proficent and above32%37%46%49%55%

    200620072008200920108th grade

    Proficent and above38%42%46%56%59%

    2006200720082009201010th grade

    Proficent and above35%52%40%44%46%

    Proficient

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Proficent and above

    Percent proficient and advanced

    Fifth Grade

    32

    37

    46

    49

    55

    Exhibit 2-1

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Proficent and above

    Percent proficient and advanced

    Eighth Grade

    38

    42

    46

    56

    59

    Exhibit 2-2

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Proficent and above

    Percent proficient and advanced

    Tenth Grade

    35

    52

    40

    44

    46

    Exhibit 3-1

    Exhibit 2-1

    Frequency of Use of Instructional Practices in

    Middle School Science Classrooms (percent)

    Practices that provide opportunities to:Always/OftenSometimesSeldomNever

    Learn foundational facts and knowledge

    Read a textbook28%39%29%5%

    Watch demonstration385291

    Take notes and listen573670

    Answer textbook or worksheet questions4443122

    Watch audio-video presentations365591

    Engage in the practices of science

    Work in groups732520

    Do hands-on activities563581

    Record or analyze data4444111

    Design their own investigations8364412

    Do fieldwork2103256

    Read non-textbook materials1141417

    Write reflections32372210

    Present to the class1643347

    Exhibit 3-2

    Students not prepared for middle school science

    Not a ChallengeMinor ChallengeModerate ChallengeMajor Challenge

    78% or more FRL11.832.426.529.4100.1

    55% to 77% FRL12.922.635.529100

    38% to 54% FRL23.541.220.614.7100

    0% to 37% FRL30.342.421.26.1100

    0% to 37% FRL

    38% to 54% FRL

    55% to 77% FRL

    78% or more FRL

    Exhibit 3-2

    Not a Challenge

    Minor Challenge

    Moderate Challenge

    Major Challenge

    Schoolwide Socioeconomic Status

    Percentage of Principals

    Exhibit 3-3

    Sci Major/Sci Cert50.40%

    Sci Major/Multi Cert14.30%

    No Sci Major/Sci Cert10.50%

    No Sci Major/Multi Cert24.80%

    Exhibit 3-3

    Exhibit 3-4

    Exhibit 3.2

    Major challengeModerate challengeMinor challengeNot a challenge

    0% to 37% FRL0.00017.10022.90060.000100.000

    38% to 54% FRL11.80032.40029.40026.500100.100

    55% to 77% FRL33.3003.00018.20045.500100.000

    78% or more FRL28.60020.00017.10034.300100.000

    Exhibit 3-4

    Not a challenge

    Minor challenge

    Moderate challenge

    Major challenge

    Schoolwide Socioeconomic Status

    Percentage of Principals

    Exhibit 4-1

    78% or More FRL55% to 77% FRL38% to 54% FRL0% to 37% FRL

    Have Access to Bunsen Burners58.60041.20051.10067.200

    Have Access to Computers95.70083.10087.40094.200

    CHECK!

    0.60.27857142860.07857142860.0428571429

    0.66960352420.23348017620.06607929520.0308370044

    5800%4092%5102%6716%

    9503%8287%8733%9417%

    Exhibit 4-1

    00

    00

    00

    00

    Have Access to Bunsen Burners

    Have Access to Computers

    Percentage of Middle School Teachers

    Exhibit 4-2

    Major or Moderate ChallengeDistrictPrincipalTeacher

    Limited Time for Science Education29.0023.0052.00

    Emphasis on ELA and Math50.0051.0056.00

    Large Class Sizes41.0054.0076.00

    Limited Funds for Equipment and Supplies49.0068.0072.00

    Lack of In-Service Education Opportunities39.0051.0055.00

    Lack of Facilities19.0035.0047.00

    Maintaining Discipline18.0028.0046.00

    Limited Parent Support13.0028.0045.00

    Limited Student Interest7.0022.0039.00

    Exhibit 4-2

    000

    000

    000

    000

    000

    000

    000

    000

    000

    District

    Principal

    Teacher

    Percentage Responding

    Q32

    Over 21,0009,000 - 20,9995,000 - 8,9992,500 - 4,9991,000 - 2,499Less than 1,000

    Any Support (>0 FTE)66.0052.0038.0044.0047.0068.00

    FTE of 1.0 or more21.0011.0027.0026.0039.0056.00Enrollment0.0 FTE0.1-0.991.0+

    below 1000 students32%13%56%

    1000-2500 students53%8%39%

    2500-5000 students56%18%26%

    5000-8000 students62%12%27%

    Q32

    FTE of 1.0 or more

    Size of District (student enrollment)

    Percentage of California Districts

    Q33

    Type of InitiativePercentage of Districts

    District Based or Created21.000

    State (e.g., California Math-Science Partnership)13.000

    Partnership with Local Science-Rich Education Institution9.000

    Other (e.g., NASA or NSF funding)13.000

    Q33

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Percentage of Districts

    Teacher Survey Q 31

    What percentage of elementary teachers d.

    DistrictPrincipal

    23%22%

    39%31%

    29%26%

    10%22%

    0-49%61%53%

    Teacher Survey Q 31

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Percent of elementary teachers in a district

    Percent of California districts

    Exhibit 4-3

    What percentage of elementary teachers d.

    DistrictPrincipal

    51%50%

    Less than 50% of elementary teachers who are well prepared to teach science61%53%

    Exhibit 4-3

    00

    00

    District

    Principal

    Percent of California districts or schools administrators

    Percent of Teachers reporting "too little" or "no support"

    Encouragement from my principal to teach science42

    Support from the district office in teaching science64

    Support in assessing students' science learning66

    Help finding space for hands-on learning68

    Support in assessing my own knowledge of science content68

    Evaluation of my effectiveness in teaching scienc