Since the early 1980's there has been broad agreement that the U.S. must improve the science and mathematics education its
school children receive (NCCE, 1983). Reports emphasize giving students the opportunity to think like scientists (NCTM,
1991; NRC, 1996; AAAS, 1989, 1993). They stress the importance of creating an environment in which students are engaged
in long-term investigations and cognitive problem solving. Ultimately this improvement can happen only if teachers have a better
knowledge of the content and pedagogy of these fields. Much effort has been focused on strengthening the qualifications of
teachers now in the schools, and in helping them to adopt new and more effective teaching approaches. In Massachusetts, the
Education Reform Act of 1993 legislated a comprehensive program that significantly increased financial support to the schools,
required the development of curriculum frameworks consistent with the national recommendations, and mandated periodic
recertification of teachers (Massachusetts Department of Education, 1995). It is the responsibility of the higher education
community to reinvent their teacher preparation programs so that teachers entering the profession have the requisite science and
mathematics preparation (Glass, Aiuto, and Anderson, 1993).
Four specific areas of need will be addressed by STEMTEC:
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- Future elementary teachers-expected to be renaissance scholars capable of teaching every subject-need to experience
science and mathematics courses that model the best teaching practices. They need inquiry-based courses which
incorporate cooperative learning and employ modern technology to enhance understanding (NCTM, 1991; NRC,
1996). They also need to experience science by engaging in original research (NRC, 1996).
- At the middle school and high school level, we are seeing shortages of qualified science and mathematics teachers and
elementary science specialists both locally and nationally (Weiss et al., 1994). Thus we need more as well as better
prepared secondary teachers. Qualified teachers can be recruited from those who are currently majoring in science,
mathematics, engineering, and related fields, or who have completed programs in these areas.
- Many minority groups continue to be under-represented in science and mathematics education (Oakes, 1990).
Nationally, 30% of the students belong to under-represented minority groups, but less than 10% of the science and math
teachers are from these groups. (Weiss et al., 1994; NCES, 1994). Over the past 20 years the number of women
teaching secondary mathematics has increased to approximately half the total, but only a third of the high school science
teachers are women. The Massachusetts statistics are similar to the national data (MA Dept. of Ed., 1996). We need to
recruit and retain women and minority students in the appropriate college majors and into teaching.
- Too many newly certified teachers find themselves very much alone in their early teaching years as they learn how to
cope with practical classroom issues while honing their teaching skills. We need to develop mechanisms to provide them
with the support they need.
Created June 2000
Author: STEMTEC Webmaster