Leaving No Child Behind in Science Education

Article excerpt

With the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 several changes have been implemented that require states, colleges of education, school districts and others to rethink ways to improve teacher certification. One aspect of this legislation is that each public school must have a "highly qualified" teacher in the classroom--one that has, among other requirements, obtained full certification and passed the state teacher licensing exam. The understanding of this definition is paramount at the middle and high school levels where teaching academic subjects become more prevalent.

With a greater emphasis on accountability, NCLB challenges educators to re-examine how individual students are performing in their subject areas. Therefore, a closer look at the impact of teacher instructional practices in science is needed. More importantly, having highly qualified science teachers in every class is the goal. NCLB has mandated that "a state plan should ensure that all public elementary and secondary school teachers in the state who teach core academic subjects (i.e. science) are highly qualified not later than the end of the 2005-2006 school year."

The lack of highly qualified science teachers is an issue in general, but unfortunately, for some populations the problem is even worse. For instance, large urban schools are plagued with high numbers of unqualified and poorly prepared teachers. It is not uncommon to place teachers that lack effective instructional practices, as well as a degree in the area in which they teach, in schools with predominantly minority and high-poverty students. Yet, inner-city schools need the most effective teachers and resources if the problem of low student achievement in science among minorities is to be alleviated.

Science, as its own culture, has been for the elite and used as a portal for advanced study, as well as mental training for increasing processing skills and abstract levels of thinking. …