Elementary Science Education Under Microscope in New Report

A new research report, High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The Status of Science Education in California Elementary Schools, has been released for publication by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning.

High Hopes – Few Opportunities is based on a two-year study of science education in California's elementary schools. The research shows that while educators strongly believe that science education is important, children in California's elementary schools rarely have the opportunity to engage in high-quality science learning opportunities.

Research 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. The research is part of Strengthening Science Education in California, an initiative funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to inform and foster efforts to strengthen science education in California.

The report reveals that intense pressure to meet accountability goals in mathematics and English has limited focus on science. It also shows that teachers and schools do not have the infrastructure support needed to consistently provide students with quality science learning opportunities.

Among the findings:

40 percent of elementary teachers say they spend 60 minutes or less teaching science each week.

One-third of elementary teachers say they feel prepared to teach science.

85 percent of teachers say they have not received any professional development in science during the last three years.

Nine in ten principals say science education is very important and should start early.

Less than half of principals (44%) believe it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction in his or her school.

The report's recommendations call for an immediate review and revision of the state's educational accountability systems, the restoration of a full and balanced curriculum, including science, for every student, and the establishment of adequate resource allocation and support systems needed to ensure high quality science learning experiences.

The research directly contrasts with previously conducted public opinion research showing that Californians place a high priority on science education.

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