Monday, March 28, 2011

Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in California


Untapped Potential: The Status of Middle School Science Education in California finds that the state’s middle schools have the potential to provide students with high quality science education, but significant challenges limit opportunities for science learning, leaving that potential unfulfilled. The report’s findings are based on the results of a statewide study of science education conducted in 2010 and 2011 among teachers, principals and school district leaders in California, as well as analysis of secondary data in selected school districts. The study was commissioned by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd and conducted by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and SRI International as part of their Strengthening Science Education in California initiative.

The research shows that:

- nearly 40 percent of teachers view students’ lack of interest as a major or moderate challenge to science instruction.
- nearly half (47%) of principals report students’ lack of preparation as a major or moderate challenge.
- nearly one-quarter of middle school teachers may not have an adequate background or preparation for teaching the subject.
- nearly 60 percent of surveyed teachers identified insufficient professional development as a barrier to high-quality science instruction.
- just 14 percent of middle school teachers provide a pattern of classroom practices that support regular engagement of students in the practices of science.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How teacher turnover harms student achievement


This study estimates the effects of teacher turnover on over 850,000 New York City 4th and 5th grade student observations over eight years. The results indicate that students in grade-levels with higher turnover score lower in both ELA and math and that this effect is particularly strong in schools with more low-performing and black students. Moreover, the results suggest that there is a disruptive effect of turnover beyond changing the distribution in teacher quality.

Related article


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Middle School Science Professional Development Program Evaluated


The 2006-11 Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd has concluded a rigorous experimental study of the effects of the Making Sense of ScienceTM Force and Motion professional development program. The program is designed to improve teachers’ pedagogical and science content knowledge.

The study, Effects of Making Sense of SCIENCETM professional development on the achievement of middle school students, including English language learners, found that grade 8 teachers who received the professional development had greater content knowledge about force and motion and confidence in teaching force and motion than teachers who did not receive the professional development. However, there was no impact of the program on students’ physical science test scores.

The Making Sense of ScienceTM Force and Motion course for teachers incorporates physical science content, analysis of student work and thinking, and classroom instruction to develop teacher expertise about force and motion and science instruction. The course emphasizes inquiry-based instruction practices.


Monday, March 21, 2011

10,000 Teachers Share Views on the Teaching Profession


  • Primary Sources 2012: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession is a survey of more than 10,000 public school teachers from every state, urban and rural districts and who are representative of novice and experienced professionals at all grade levels and in all specialties.
  • The survey was conducted online in July 2011 by research firm Harrison Group Inc.
  • Primary Sources 2012 is the second report from Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to survey America’s teachers on their views and opinions. The first report, Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America's Schools was released in 2009 and continues to be recognized as the largest-ever national survey of teachers.


  • Challenges facing students are significant and growing: 46% of veteran teachers say they are seeing fewer students prepared for challenging work than when they began teaching in their current schools. 56% are seeing more students living in poverty, and 49% are seeing more students coming to school hungry
  • Only 22% of teachers rate student academic achievement at their schools as "Excellent"
  • High-school teachers believe only 60% of students in current classes could leave high school prepared to succeed in a 2- or 4- year college
  • Teachers welcome and are eager for more frequent evaluation of their practice from principals, peers and even students. Plus, they welcome feedback from a variety of sources.
  • Teachers are open to tenure reform: Eighty percent of teachers agree that tenure should be regularly reevaluated, and on average, teachers say that tenure should be granted after 5.4 years of teaching.
  • Teachers work an average of 10 hours, 40 minutes per workday, three hours and 20 minutes longer than the average required teacher workday nationwide.
  • Standardized tests do not reflect student skill: Only 45% of teachers say their students’ take the test seriously and perform on them to the best of their ability
  • Family involvement is the highest ranked factor for improving student achievement with 98% of teachers in agreement that it has a strong or very strong impact on student academic success. At the same time, 47% of veteran teachers report lower parental participation in their schools.
  • The majority of teachers are satisfied in their jobs: Eighty nine percent of teachers are either very satisfied or satisfied in their jobs and only 16% of teachers plan on leaving teaching.
  • 23 is the average number of students in the American public school classroom. On average, teachers report that student achievement is negatively affected once class size reaches 27 students.