The 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education (NSSME), being conducted by Horizon Research, Inc. with assistance from Westat, is the fifth in a series of national surveys of science and mathematics education since 1977. These surveys have proven highly valuable to science and mathematics educators, researchers, and policy makers, exploring both trends in science and mathematics education over the years, and current issues.
NSSME's research questions include: 1. To what extent do science and mathematics instruction and on-going assessment mirror current understanding of learning? 2. What are the most commonly-used textbooks/programs, and how are they used? 3. What factors, including policies such as those in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation, influence teachers? decisions about content and pedagogy? 4. What formal and informal opportunities do mathematics/science teachers have for on-going development of their knowledge and skills? 5. How are resources for mathematics and science education, including well-prepared teachers and course offerings, distributed among schools in different types of communities and different socioeconomic levels?
The study involves a random sample of elementary, middle, and high schools across the U.S., relying on web-based data collection. One questionnaire is directed at school-level leaders, who are being asked to respond to questions about the nature of STEM programs in their schools. Another questionnaire is being administered to classroom teachers within sampled schools, inquiring about classroom practices, curriculum materials used, and assessment practices. It also asks teachers about their licensure and their entry routes to the profession. This study provides a view of the demographic characteristics of the STEM teacher workforce, and information about such issues as out-of-field teaching assignments, and the use of technology in schools. The study also sends observers into STEM classrooms to provide first-hand accounts of current STEM education in U.S. schools. Analyses will use weighted data, with school, teacher, and class weights calculated to reflect the sample design selection probabilities. An Advisory Board with expertise in research design/analysis; science and mathematics education; policy; and dissemination is providing oversight and evaluation.
This study is important because of its longitudinal nature, allowing comparisons of STEM education over time. It is also extremely timely because no survey research as comprehensive and focused on STEM education has been done since the passage of NCLB. The data analysis plan provides both national estimates of trends as well as results disaggregated by type of community and by school socio-economic status. In addition, NSSME's database is designed to be used by other researchers who can mine the data in unique ways, further contributing to the impact of this work.