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Report: Calif. Schools Lack Time for Science

Feeling an accountability squeeze, many California schools are spending less time teaching science, despite the fact that educators say they recognize the importance of science instruction, according to a new report. Published by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, the report includes a number of notable findings that are arguably indicative of some larger national trends. Among them:

• Nine out of 10 California elementary school principals said giving students a strong background in science is very important or essential. Yet only 44 percent of elementary school principals said they believe students receive high-quality science instruction in their own schools.

• Forty percent of elementary school teachers spend one hour or less on science per week, and 13 percent spend 30 minutes or less, states the report. The majority of teachers attributed the lack of science instruction to limited time and an emphasis on English language arts and math. About half of teachers—particularly those in high-poverty schools—said lack of facilities was a major or moderate challenge in teaching science. Only 8 percent of teachers pointed to limited student interest as a major or moderate challenge.

• While 90 percent of elementary teacher said they feel very prepared to teach ELA and math, only about a third feel prepared to teach science. For many, that seems to be the result of insufficient professional development—more than 85 percent of elementary teachers surveyed had not received any science-related PD in the past three years.

The report, "America's High Hopes, Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California," is based on the results of research surveys and case studies from 2010 and 2011.

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