Survey Finds Science Teachers Optimistic National Science Education Standards Will Foster Change
Three Key Barriers to Implementation Must Be Addressed
Washington, D.C., March 28, 1996—The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the world’s largest organization dedicated to improving science education, today released the results of a survey of 5,000 randomly selected NSTA members on their reactions toward the newly released National Science Education Standards. The Standards, a product of the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, are voluntary guidelines designed to ensure that all students graduate scientifically literate.
When asked if they thought the Standards would improve the way science is taught in their classrooms, 80 percent of the teachers who answered the question said yes. Seventy-five percent also believed that the Standards would improve the way science is taught in their schools.
"We are thrilled - but not surprised - that the Standards received such strong support from teachers," said Shelley Fisher, NSTA president and middle-level science teacher. "Change is a scary thing, and fear of the unknown can be daunting. But, what we are hearing is that teachers are ready for this positive change."
Although optimistic about the impact the Standards will have on science education, teachers also indicated that they expect to run into barriers when trying to put the Standards into practice. The three top barriers cited overwhelmingly by the respondents were the need for
- adequate time for planning and working with other teachers
- financial support for relevant professional development
- science materials, resources, and facilities
"Although teachers have responded positively to the Standards, we are well aware of their keenly felt need for time, resources, and professional development," said Gerry Wheeler, executive director of NSTA. "Without addressing these needs, we cannot expect that teachers will be able to fully implement the Standards. As the Standards themselves point out, this effort will require the entire education system and, indeed, the entire community to pull together."
NSTA Initiates Standards-Based Efforts for Teachers
NSTA is launching a number of publications and programs that will help all science educators put the Standards into action in their classrooms. NSTA Pathways to the Science Standards is a practical "travel guide" to the Standards written by teachers for teachers who want to implement the Standards. In the three Pathways books—for elementary, middle, and high school teachers—readers will find discussions, examples, and possible routes for realizing the vision of each of the standards listed in the NRC document. The first of the Pathways books, the high school edition is now available.
In conjunction with the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science project, NSTA is also directing the production of a standards awareness kit that science teachers, teacher educators, and prospective teachers can use when making presentations about the Standards to others. The kit will include a video, a poster, and presentation materials, and should be available by mid-April.
The Standards represent a consensus within the science education community about what is important in science education. That science is a subject for all students is a basic principle of the Standards. Unlike standards in other school subjects that focus only on content, the National Science Education Standards address the full spectrum of science teaching, including teaching, professional development, content, assessment, program, and system. The content standards deal with the subject matter of science at the elementary (grades K–4), middle (grades 5–9), and high school (grades 9–12) levels. NSTA sees the Standards as a common vision that every one involved with science education, from teachers to administrators, parents, and legislators, can work toward.
Founded in 1944, the National Science Teachers Association is the world's largest professional organization dedicated to improving science teaching at all levels—preschool through college. NSTA’s 53,000-plus members include science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in science education.
Administered in January, the survey’s return rate was more than 38 percent (1,900 returned). Eighty-seven percent of these respondents were teachers.