Byline: Steve Metz
NSTA's mission is clearly stated: "...to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching for all." NSTA takes the "for all" part of its mission very seriously. A major guiding principle of this organization is to "embrace and model diversity through equity, respect, and opportunity for all" (NSTA 2006a). Similarly, the National Science Education Standards list "science for all students" as an essential guiding principle (NRC 1996, p. 19). All students should have the opportunity to participate in the exciting discoveries of science.
In many of our inner-city schools, poverty and a nearly absolute segregation combine to make fixing urban schools "the most desperate problem in American education today," according to Bruno V. Manno, senior associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation (NSTA 2006b). Jonathan Kozol echoes this theme in his provocative book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (Kozol 2005). Nearly 11 million children in the United States-one in four students-attend urban schools. Children in urban schools are more likely to be poor and to score lowest on science and math achievement tests. Too many of our inner-city schools have high rates of teacher turnover; urban teachers struggle to get the continuing training and preparation they need to teach challenging science courses. In a 2000 survey of the nation's largest urban school districts, 98% reported immediate needs for science teachers (NSTA 2006b). Urban school buildings often are dangerously in need of repair. Kozol's book is a tribute to those undefeated urban educators who persist against the odds, and also a challenge to a nation to fulfill the promise of a quality public education for all its children.
Diversity comes in many flavors. Achievement gaps have been identified with respect to race and ethnicity, but also regarding gender, limited English language ability, socioeconomic status, and learning differences. The Science Teacher (TST) has a long history of providing support and teaching suggestions to help close these achievement gaps. This issue of TST continues the tradition with articles on designing content and technology that is accessible to all (see Curry, Cohen, and Lightbody p. 32), teaching astronomy to visually impaired students (see Bogner et al. p. 38), and teaching about diabetes in Native American schools (see Hegelson and Francis p. 44), among others. As a supplement to this issue, make sure you read a free sample of the excellent guidebook Investigating Safely (Texley, Kwan, and Summers 2004) in PDF form at www.nsta.org/investigatingsafely. The sample-Chapter 2 from the book-focuses on safe practices for diverse learners.
One feature article definitely struck a personal chord for me: Teaching Science to Students with Learning Disabilities, by Rich Grumbine and Peg Brigham Alden (p. 26). Meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities became a topic close to my heart when my son was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) while in the first grade. Throughout the years I have seen my now-teenage son struggle mightily with the academic requirements that my daughter-now also a teenager-handles routinely. For science teachers, accommodating the needs of students with AD/HD has become a significant part of our responsibilities, with 7.5% of school-age children affected by this disorder, according to the most conservative estimate from a recent Mayo Clinic study (2002). Although once controversial-and still sometimes difficult to diagnose-AD/HD has been validated as a legitimate brain-based learning disorder by numerous scientific studies, often using modern brain imaging technologies such as MRI, SPECT, and PET scans. …