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Educating Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Technology: New Practices for the New Millenium
… in addition to teacher preparation, we have the continuing challenge of professional development, where school districts update the knowledge, skills, and strategies that teachers bring into the classroom. No professional is equipped to practice for all time, i.e., be an inexhaustible “vein of gold.” We cannot expect world-class student learning of mathematics and science if U.S. teachers lack the confidence, enthusiasm, and knowledge to deliver world-class instruction.
National Science Board, 1999, page 7
a higher probability that students in districts with large populations of underrepresented minorities or with high levels of poverty will be taught by unqualified or inexperienced teachers. Yet, in some states and districts, there are more qualified applicants for teaching positions in science and mathematics than there are jobs. As a result of these statistics and demographic research, some have claimed that, at least for now, the issue of teacher shortages is actually a problem of inequities in distribution, recruitment, and incentives (e.g., Darling-Hammond and Berry, 1998). Clearly, a method for addressing and ameliorating these various challenges, such as a coordinated and integrated system for locating and placing qualified teachers in school districts across the country, is lacking at the national level.
Why does this disjointed—and very worrisome—situation exist? The earlier part of this report documented some of the challenges that prospective teachers face. Those who then enter and decide to remain in the profession face opportunities for professional development that are far from comprehensive or integrated. Indeed, they often must endure professional development “opportunities” that are disjointed, repetitive from year to year, unconnected to their practice in the classroom, and ephemeral. Professional development days sponsored by districts are typically one-time workshops conducted by outside facilitators who may know little about those teachers’ educational needs or the problems they face in teaching (e.g., Loucks-Horsley and Matsumoto, 1999). Some states have stopped providing funds for professional development while others are demanding that teachers engage in even more professional development. In the latter case, states may or may not provide financial assistance for local districts to carry out their mandates.