No Child Left Behind: A Toolkit for Teachers
Archived Information

Helping Teachers Improve Math and Science Achievement

According to the Teaching Commission's report Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action, the U.S. job market is so scientifically and technologically based that math and science knowledge is critical for the health of our economy.17 While science and technology advance at lightning speed, stagnant math and science performance in schools shortchanges our students' future and endangers our prosperity and our nation's security.

Improving Math and Science Instruction Around the Nation

No Child Left Behind supports the belief that developing teachers' knowledge and skills in math and science will contribute substantially to the goal of improving student learning, and that students will perform better on assessments of math and science if their teachers have in-depth knowledge of the subjects they teach.

In the United States, the professional preparation programs for many teachers at the elementary, middle school and high school levels include very little math and science. Only 43 percent of middle school students take science from teachers who have a major in science and are certified to teach science.18

No Child Left Behind requires that federal funds go only to those programs that are backed by evidence of their effectiveness. Over the last decade, researchers have scientifically proven the best ways to teach reading. We must do the same in math. We must work toward using research-based teaching methods.

How well did students perform in 2003?19

The figures to the right show that 32 percent of fourth-graders and 29 percent of eight-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in 2003. The percentages of students performing at or above Basic in 2003 were 77 percent at grade 4 and 68 percent at grade 8.

Note: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2003 Mathematics Assessment.

Bar chart showing that in 2003, 4% of 4th graders scored advanced, 32% scored at or above proficient, and 77% scored at or above basic.  5% of 8th graders scored advanced, 29% scored at or above proficient, and 68% scored at or above basic.

No Child Left Behind Creates Math and Science Partnerships to Rally Every Sector of Society to Work With Schools to Increase Math and Science Excellence

The Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) program is the signature program for improving math and science education in No Child Left Behind. This program provides funding to every state in the nation on a formula-grant basis to support high-quality professional development for math and science teachers. Each state is required to conduct a competitive grant program to support projects that are partnerships among science, engineering, and mathematics, and other high-tech departments at institutions of higher education, high-need school districts, and other interested organizations, with the purpose of enhancing the content knowledge of math and science teachers. Those interested in competing for funding under this program should contact their district for more information.

For more information on the Math and Science Partnership program, visit:

The President Calls for Increasing the Ranks and Pay of Math and Science Teachers

No Child Left Behind requires states to fill the nation's classrooms with teachers who are qualified to teach math and science by the end of the 2005-06 school year. In areas where there are critical shortages, President Bush supports paying math and science teachers more in order to help attract experienced and excellent teachers. Title II funds may be used to fund programs that attract teachers in areas of critical need.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on math:20
  • Only a quarter of our fourth- and eighth- graders are performing at or above proficient levels in math.

  • Twelfth-grade math scores have declined since 1996, and a closer look at those scores reveals that this drop may be attributed to an increase in the percentage of students who fail to achieve basic skill levels.

  • While the scores of black and Hispanic students have been improving at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels, there are significant gaps in achievement between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts at all grade levels.

According to a recent international comparison on math and science:21

  • American students generally perform less well in math and science as they move through school, when compared to other industrialized countries. Our fourth-graders are above the international average, while our twelfth-graders are near the bottom.

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Last Modified: 08/13/2009