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Kauffman Foundation supports assessment of science labs in area schools
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Aug. 10, 2007) – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation today released the results of The State of Middle School and High School Science Labs in the Kansas City Region. The study outlines the findings of an audit assessing the state of science labs across 30 school districts in the local area. SuccessLink conducted the study, which was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. The Foundation supported this study as part of its 10-year, multi-million dollar agenda to improve student achievements in math, engineering, technology and science in the greater Kansas City region.
“While there are several concerns outlined in the report, the future looks bright for our schools,” said Margo Quiriconi, Kauffman Foundation director of Research and Policy-Education. “The recommendations provided are within reach and once implemented will greatly improve our students’ science education experience.”
The audit results indicate that the majority of science labs in the Kansas City region do not meet national standards and that much work needs to be done to bring school science labs up to standards. During the 2006-2007 school year, the auditors visited 170 schools over a five-month period. They observed classrooms, analyzed curriculum, conducted teacher interviews and provided online surveys to both teachers and administrators.
With the data being compared to standards set by the National Science Teachers Association, the auditors identified five areas of concern, which included safety, facilities, equipment and materials, instruction and learning, and district policies.
During the study, auditors found missing safety equipment in more than half of the science labs. The auditors also found that lab equipment and materials were not being used effectively or safely in many lab classrooms. In several instances, there was old, broken and unused equipment in the observed labs.
The report also concluded that the majority of science labs were too small, lacked sufficient storage space and were not set up in a way that effectively promoted student learning.
“By rearranging the design of the labs and reducing the number of students in each science lab class, the school districts can begin to improve facilities,” said Amy Youngblood, SuccessLink auditor.
In addition to these conditions, many teachers led science lab classes that were larger than the recommended class size of 24 students. The auditors also discovered that many teachers using lab equipment were not trained or lacked the necessary experience and support to integrate lab activities into their existing science curriculum.
“By providing teachers with the support, materials and guidance they need to safely and effectively use the science lab, the experience of students will change and the quality of the laboratory environment will improve,” said Youngblood.
While there is a great deal of work to be completed, Kansas City schools can improve the quality of science lab experiences and enhance student achievement.
“Our local schools have an opportunity to use science lab experiences as a way to enhance student science learning,” said Quiriconi. “This is critical to improving science literacy and preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers.
SuccessLink is a valuable resource for Missouri educators. Funded through the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education and other public and private funds, SuccessLink disseminates and promotes the best teaching ideas throughout Missouri. Teaching activities and exemplary programs are recognized and shared freely throughout the state. To learn more, visit www.successlink.org.