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Many teachers feel less prepared to teach science than they do to teach other subjects, and there are few opportunities available to improve their preparation.

Teachers who teach science in self-contained classrooms indicate that they feel least prepared to fig.2teach science as compared to the other core subjects. This finding is consistent with findings from a national survey10 conducted in 2000. Figure 2 depicts Bay Area study results indicating that 10 times as many multi-subject teachers do not feel adequately prepared to teach science as compared to the same teachers’ feelings of preparedness in literacy and mathematics.

Science resource teachers, who provide science instruction in approximately 15% of the districts who responded to our survey, are more likely to feel prepared to teach science than multi-subject teachers do. Yet 16% of science resource teachers still indicate that they feel only somewhat or not adequately prepared to teach science. Interestingly, this means that some teachers primarily assigned to teach science feel less prepared to teach science than multi-subject teachers feel to teach reading/language arts or mathematics.

At the same time that teachers feel under-prepared in science, the region is challenged by the limitations of its teaching force. California schools average 12% new teachers (1st and 2nd year) while one out of seven (14%) Bay Area teachers have been teaching less than 2 years. In addition, 16 Bay Area school districts (accounting for 20% of the region’s students) employ a teaching force including 20–35% 1st and 2nd year teachers.

Lack of preparation and high teacher turnover rates render professional development (PD) opportunities in science critical. Few such opportunities exist within the school system, and few teachers access those offered elsewhere. Most County Offices of Education provide minimal or no science PD; districts indicate that, over the past year, they offered none (28%), less than 3 hours (31%), or 3–5 hours (12%) of PD. Teacher surveys also evidence a lack of participation in science PD (Figure 3): 68% of multi-subject teachers in self-contained classrooms report less than 6 hours of PD over the last 3 years; 36% report none at all.

Proceed to Inconsistent and Inadequate Capacity