New Directions for Federal Programs To Aid Mathematics and Science Teaching

Gao ID: PEMD-84-5 March 6, 1984

GAO reported on problems in mathematics and science education in the public schools, the prospects for upgrading existing mathematics and science teachers, the viability of retraining teachers of other subjects to teach science and mathematics, and priorities for evaluation in mathematics and science teaching.

Those who place a priority upon technical education are concerned about the evidence of problems with the quantity and quality of mathematics and physical science teachers in the public schools. Forty-two States reported a mathematics teacher shortage in 1982. Surveys show a drop of 64 percent in mathematics education graduates and a drop of 33 percent in science education graduates from 1971 to 1981. GAO found that about half of the recent bachelor degree graduates who are teaching science and mathematics are not certified or eligible for certification in the field they are currently teaching. GAO found no evidence that training programs for upgrading existing mathematics and science teachers will produce improved student achievement. Research has shown little relationship between the extent of teachers' knowledge and student learning. However, research does suggest that student performance can be improved by training teachers to manage instructional programs and student behavior. Retraining teachers from other subjects to teach science and mathematics seems to be one viable solution; however, it is too early to determine the quality of retrained teachers. GAO found that retraining programs sponsored by State and local agencies tend to have higher retention rates than university programs due to the funding provided and a more stringent selection process. At present, there is insufficient data to determine the quantity and quality of mathematics and science teachers.

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