Presidential Awards Recognize The World's Best Teaching

June 12, 1997

The classroom practices and professional development of teachers who earn a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) -- the nation's highest honor for K-12 educators -- more resemble their peers in nations that score high on international comparisons than those of many of their U.S. colleagues.

The results of a random survey of former presidential awardees, conducted for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by Horizon Research, Inc. of Chapel Hill, N.C., are particularly timely for the 107 elementary teachers who received their 1996 awards today at the National Academy of Sciences.

"These outstanding teachers have dedicated themselves to insuring that all children, not just the 'best and brightest,' are challenged to excel in science and math," said Neal Lane, NSF's director. NSF administers PAEMST for the White House.

The presidential awards were bestowed in the same week as a new international comparison was released which showed that science and math learning in U.S. fourth-graders is improving. NSF attributed this finding to better classroom teaching.

On June 10, NSF and the U.S. Department of Education jointly released findings from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) which showed U.S. fourth-graders performing above international averages in both math and science. In science, U.S. students were in the top group of equally high scoring nations behind only Korea.

"Factors such as the amount of television watching, class size and time spent in school cannot explain student performance. What really matters is the quality of the day-to-day interaction between teachers and students around a coherent curriculum," Luther S. Williams, NSF's head of education and human resources noted in reviewing the TIMSS report.

A comprehensive survey comparing the professional preparation and classroom practices of 930 past presidential awardees with those of a random sample of 2,605 math and science teachers shows that differences between those two groups often are quite dramatic.

Those differences, officials said, may have important implications in the effort to achieve excellence in all classrooms by pointing to known factors and practices that can help to improve the quality of teaching.

The survey found that PAEMST teachers:

Horizon Research, Inc.'s survey of 930 past winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) compared their responses with those of a random sample of 2,065 math and science teachers. The results show dramatic differences in teaching style and professional development.

According to the survey:

National Science Foundation

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