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ERIC Number: EJ864614
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 10
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 13
ISSN: ISSN-1094-3277
No Child Left Behind and High School Astronomy
Krumenaker, Larry
Science Educator, v18 n2 p39-48 Fall 2009
Astronomy was a required subject in the first American secondary level schools, the academies of the 18th century. When these were supplanted a century later by public high schools, astronomy still was often required, subsumed into courses of Natural Philosophy. Reasons given at that time to support astronomy as a part of general education include "training of minds," "mental discipline," and the practical aspects of geography, commerce, navigation and the refinement of a civilized person. The "Committee of Ten" changed this situation in 1892 by changing college admission standards to no longer consider the study of astronomy as favorable. By 1930, only 0.06% of all students in the whole country would take an astronomy class. The launch of Sputnik I in 1957 created a brief renaissance of astronomy education, but eventually enrollment slipped back down to 1% in the 1980s, which was when the last significant nationwide examination of high school astronomy was done through Philip Sadler's 1986 survey. After Sadler, an era of budget cutbacks and increases in high stakes standardized testing began, and this became a dominating influence in 2001 with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its emphasis on reading and mathematics. Today astronomy is taken by about 4% of all high school students. Despite the meager growth that this enrollment represents, it remains important to re-examine the subject of high school astronomy as well as the effects that NCLB has had on the availability and quality of these courses. This mixed-methods study looks at fully independent, self-contained astronomy courses available to students in grades 9-12. The data came from high school astronomy teachers via a survey available to them on a Webpage and as a Word file. The results indicate that high school astronomy courses are far more affected by NCLB indirectly than directly. Enrollments drop often, not because of a shift of student interest, but because students are channeled increasingly into the main three sciences (shades of the Committee of Ten effect) and state mandated/tested courses, leaving fewer students (or schedule time) available for students to take an astronomy course. As a result, fewer sections are offered, and this can lead to outright elimination of the course. Because NCLB does not mandate that Earth/Space Science classes be tested, funding for these courses is reduced, which in turn makes teachers unable to bring in outside resources or obtain professional development related to astronomy. (Contains 2 figures and 1 table.)
National Science Education Leadership Association. P.O. Box 99381, Raleigh, NC 27624-9381. Tel: 919-848-8171; Fax: 919-848-0496; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Grade 10; Grade 11; Grade 12; Grade 9; High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001