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.