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Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools
The committee found that existing programs for advanced study are frequently inconsistent with the results of the research on cognition and learning. This report describes how program developers, schools, and educators can remedy this situation by considering all components of educational programs: curriculum, instruction, ongoing and end-of-course assessments, and teacher preparation and professional development.
Also examined in depth is the issue of equal access to advanced study. Advanced study is no longer only for an elite audience of exceptionally talented and privileged students; participation has become almost the norm for students seeking admission to selective colleges. Yet minorities, inner-city and rural students face serious limitations in accessing programs. These broader populations of students who could benefit from advanced study are currently limited by their prior educational opportunities, their schools’ ability to provide effective learning environments, and the availability of qualified and effective teachers. Improvements in these areas could significantly expand the population that can be served effectively by advanced study.
Expertise on the committee included scientist-researchers, secondary teachers of AP and IB, science and mathematics educators working on teacher education and issues of access and equity, cognitive scientists, and educational administrators. Panels of experts in the disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics) also advised the committee. The four panel reports provided a critical basis for the committee’s analysis and may be used independently of this volume. They are available online2 and are summarized in Appendix A.
This report is intended for many audiences concerned with high school science and mathematics education in general and advanced study in particular, including program developers, high school and higher education faculty, university and high school administrators, policymakers, and parents.
CONTEXT OF ADVANCED STUDY
Advanced study has wide-ranging effects on curricula, teachers, and students, therefore, advanced courses must be considered within a broader context that includes the schools where the courses are offered, preceding grade levels, and higher education. Advanced study in science and mathematics makes special demands on facilities, financial resources, and personnel at both the middle- and high school levels.