Public opinion overwhelmingly favors “ensuring a well-qualified teacher in every classroom” as the top education priority. Indeed, teachers—once viewed as central to the problem of student underachievement—are now being recognized as the solution. In teacher preparation there is a “multiplier effect” that can span generations. While a sound undergraduate science education is essential for producing the next generation of scientists, it is equally critical for future teachers of science. The refrain, “You can’t teach what you don’t know,” surely applies.
National Science Board, 1999
lift student achievement is to ensure a qualified teacher in every classroom.” This survey revealed, in addition, a strong belief by the public that prospective teachers need special training and skills, not simply a good general education.
It is important to examine the veracity of the conclusion that well-prepared teachers and high-quality teaching matter. It also is important to document and understand what specific characteristics of teachers, and the school settings in which they work, contribute to successful student outcomes. This information can then be used to help determine how better to educate and support successful teachers. If high-quality teaching is essential to success in student learning and if the academic success and achievement of students can be linked to specific characteristics of teaching—such information might be used to argue against a recent trend in many districts toward dilution of requirements for teacher education and certification in response to teacher shortages, class-size reductions, and growing K-12 student populations.
Figure 3-1 provides an overview of how research data, recommendations of professional organizations and their reports, national standards for teachers of science and mathematics, and extant standards for K-12 students in science and mathematics can influence the quality of K-12 teachers, teaching, and student achievement.
Before discussing further the various aspects of teacher quality, the study committee wishes to acknowledge and to emphasize that there are countless thousands of science and mathematics teachers who do excellent jobs in helping their students learn and achieve, often in very difficult circumstances and at