Issue Brief: Qualifications of Public Secondary School Biology Teachers, 1999-2000

Daniel J. McGrath, Emily W. Holt, and Marilyn M. Seastrom, National Center for Education Statistics
June 2005

Within this dense three-pager are noisome samples of a system gone berserk. Virtually everyone takes biology at some point in their high school career, yet 40 percent of the nation's biology students are taught by someone with neither major nor minor in the field. What did these teachers study? About half of them majored or minored in another natural science; this is most often the case for teachers in wealthier schools (those with less than a quarter of the kids in poverty). But in the highest poverty schools - those with more than half of their kids receiving free or reduced price lunch - almost half of these out-of-field biology teachers majored or minored in . . . elementary education. Seriously. This Issue Brief should make you queasy about the quality of the nation's science instruction. (Be warned: the upcoming Fordham review of state science standards will do little to alleviate your upset stomach.) It's all enough to stir up your memories of dissecting frogs. Formaldehyde, anyone? Check it out here.

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