This chapter focuses on several key issues at the heart of the current debate over the quality of our elementary and secondary mathematics and science education system. Trends in math and science achievement and coursetaking are examined first, both as system outputs and as the context for current reform efforts. Next, the chapter examines several quantifiable aspects of current reform efforts. Maintaining the science and engineering (S&E) pipeline and preparing all young people for an increasingly technological society are two goals driving reforms targeted to raise the academic bar for students and improve the quality of teaching. The desire to raise the academic expectations for all students has led states to both adopt standards specifying what students should know and be able to do and to implement new testing mechanisms to measure what students actually know.
Although it is widely recognized that education reforms cannot be successful without actively engaging teachers, comprehensive, valid measures of change in teacher quality are difficult to come by, leaving us to rely on currently available data. Indicators of teacher credentials, experience, and participation in professional development activities are presented, as well as data on how new teachers are being inducted into the profession. As access to computers and the Internet becomes more widespread in schools, the focus of the chapter turns toward understanding how IT is being implemented and how students are benefiting from its use. In conclusion, the adequacy of student preparation for higher education is examined as a lead into the discussion of college-level S&E in chapter 2.
This chapter emphasizes variation in both access to education resources (by school poverty level and minority concentration) and performance (by sex, race/ethnicity, and family background) as data availability allows. A distinction is also made between mathematics and science when the policy implications of data are different or the data tell different stories.