Reviewed by Eloise Farmer
The authors of this book present science teachers with the motivation and means to empower themselves as professionals. Armed with the data and analyses that the authors provide, readers will learn that they are not alone and that there are actions they can take to help improve the state of science education if they join with others.
The book begins with a foreword by former NSTA Executive Director Gerald F. Wheeler, who discusses the lack of attention paid by states to the recommendations in the National Science Education Standards and the fact that science teachers have largely been ignored in the creation of standards for which they will be accountable. In a preface, the authors explain how and when they collected the data upon which they based the book, including a detailed timetable of events. They acknowledge that they themselves have a bias and that their information is based on perceptions. They now run a website www.science-teaching-as-a-profession.com that gathers information and provides science teachers with a forum to discuss issues affecting them.
The book's main body addresses the idea that many people hold that student achievement depends on the quality of classroom instruction and that if “pupils’ gains are subpar, it is the teachers’ fault." Yet, instead of gaining more autonomy in the classroom, today’s teacher is “becoming a prisoner of high-stakes testing.” Job satisfaction has lessened as teacher control has lessened. This overview also makes the point that science education has often been dictated by scientists, not science teachers, and that comparisons with science scores in other nations have distorted public opinion about the quality of science educators in the U.S. The public perception of teaching as an easy job with lots of time off is described, and there is an accurate summary of the real responsibilities of a science teacher. A sidebar addresses ways in which future teachers could be attracted and retained to avoids shortfalls.
Additional chapters expand on the issues raised in the first—teacher attrition, teachers’ status as professionals, accountability, pay, unionization, tenure, and vacations. One chapter is devoted exclusively to the elevation of teacher status, and another is devoted to involving science teachers in the “wider world of science." One chapter is devoted to science teaching in Finland, where science teachers have a very high status. The book closes with ways and means of empowering science teachers to become leaders. Professional organizations are mentioned here as a means to achieve this goal.
The book includes an extensive list of resources, a glossary of educational terms, copies of the forms used to interview science educators, and an index. Most science teachers could clearly relate to the content of this book and share many of the experiences and ideas expressed. It would be of value to many to be updated on the latest issues and suggested solutions.
Review posted on 5/18/2010