This chapter examines recent trends in student achievement and factors influencing the quality of U.S. mathematics and science education at the elementary and secondary levels. Public concern about the achievement of American students in mathematics and science has intensified in recent years. In response, the education community has developed and implemented various approaches to improving K–12 education (NSB forthcoming). Targets of reform include standards and curriculum, knowledge assessments, teacher qualification, professional development, and working conditions.

The chapter begins by summarizing the most recent data on U.S. student learning in mathematics and science. New indicators of achievement include changes during the first 6 years of schooling, focusing on whether gaps between groups grew over that time. Another new topic is learning from 10th to 12th grades. The achievement section also puts U.S. student performance in mathematics and science in an international context.

The chapter next examines high school coursetaking in mathematics and science. This edition includes new data on coursetaking in environmental science, engineering, and engineering/science technologies. It also discusses the latest information on state academic course requirements for high school graduation and the status of statewide assessments.

Turning next to teachers, the chapter examines their qualifications, professional development, salaries, and working conditions, all issues that affect hiring and retaining professionals with backgrounds in mathematics and science. All teacher indicators in this chapter have been updated since Science and Engineering Indicators 2004 (NSB 2004), using the latest data from the 2003–04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) and parallel data from the 1999–2000 SASS where relevant. New teacher indicators include comparisons between teacher and other professional salaries, teacher job satisfaction and plans for continuing to teach, the link between various aspects of teachers' work environments and their long-term commitment to teaching, school reports of the degree of difficulty filling teaching vacancies in mathematics and science, and comparisons of attrition among teachers and other professionals. In addition, a section on teacher professional development includes new data on content, duration, and format. The chapter closes with indicators of secondary students' transitions into higher education.

The chapter focuses primarily on overall patterns but also reports variations in access to educational resources by minority concentration and school poverty level, and in student performance by sex, race/ethnicity, and family characteristics.

Whenever a difference or change over time is cited in this chapter, it is statistically significant at the 0.05 probability level.[1]


[1] Differences between two estimates were tested using the Student's t statistic to minimize the chances of concluding that a difference exists based on the sample when no true difference exists in the population from which the sample was drawn. Setting the significance level at 0.05 indicates that a reported difference would occur by chance no more than once in 20 samples when there was no actual difference between the population means.

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