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Trends in Secondary School Science (page 4)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

The issue of equity must be addressed in science programs and by school personnel. For the past several decades, science educators at all levels have discussed the importance of changing science programs to enhance opportunities for historically underrepresented groups. Calls for scientific and technological literacy assume the inclusion of all Americans. Other justifications—if any are needed for this position—include the supply of future scientists and engineers, changing demographics, and prerequisites for work. Research results, curricula recommendations, and practical suggestions are available to those developing science curricula for the secondary school (Gardner, Mason, & Matyas, 1989; Linn & Hyde, 1989; Malcom, 1990; Oakes, 1990).

Science education in middle schools is a special concern as educators look toward achieving higher levels of scientific literacy. Numerous reports and commissions have addressed the need for educational reform for high school science education, but few have specifically recognized the emergence of middle schools in the 1980s. The movement toward implementing middle schools, and phasing out junior high schools, was a significant trend in education. Yet, thus far, the middle school reform has not thoroughly addressed the particular issues of subject-matter disciplines—in this case, science and technology. Contemporary reform must not allow the science education of early adolescents to be overlooked or assumed to be part of either the elementary school or secondary school curriculum.

Improving curriculum and instruction will be a hollow gesture without concomitant changes in assessment at all levels, from the local classroom to the national and international levels. In general, the changes in assessment practices must reflect the changes described earlier for curriculum and instruction. Incongruities, such as teaching fewer concepts in greater depth but testing for numerous facts in fine detail, will undermine the reform of science education. New forms of assessment are available and being recommended by researchers, policy makers, and practitioners (Frederiksen & Collins, 1989; Murnane & Raizen, 1988; Shavelson, Carey, & Webb, 1990).

Reform of science education at the secondary school level must be viewed as part of the general reform of education. Approaching the improvement of science education by changing textbooks, buying new computers, or adding new courses simply will not work. Fortunately, widespread educational reform, which includes science education, is underway. The improvement of science education in the secondary school must be part of the reconstruction of science education for K–12 and must include all courses and students, a staff development program, reform of science teacher preparation, and support from school administrators. This comprehensive or systemic recommendation is based on the research on implementation (Fullan, 2001; Hall, 1989) and research literature on school change and restructuring.

Early in the twenty-first century we think the improvement of science education is a national mandate. You will be a part of that process. Although the challenge is large, we have clear guidance in national standards and benchmarks. These guidelines will be followed through changes in instructional materials and increased support of professional development to help science teachers improve. We have all the tools for the job; now we need commitment at the local, state, and national levels.

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