Beyond Description of the Problems:

Directions for Research on Diversity and Equity Issues in K-12 Mathematics and Science Education

Edward Britton, Senta Raizen, Joyce Kaser, & Andrew Porter


 Table of Contents  



Authors and Contributors



Chapter One: The 2000 NISE Forum--Basis for a Research Agenda                 

Report Organization

Analyzing Forum Information

About NISE and the NISE Forum


Chapter Two:  Synthesis and Overview of Directions for Future Research         

Synthesis of Research Directions                                                                   

                Goals for Diversity and Equity              

                Detailing Inequitable Course Availability, Student Tracking, and Teacher Assignments  

                Determining Effective Content and Instructional Practices                         

                Understanding and Scaling Up Effective Programs

                Equipping Teachers During Preparation, Induction, and Professional Development

                Improving Research Methods

                Disseminating Existing Research                                   

        Overview of Research Directions                                                                     

                Opening Speech, Kent McGuire

                Opening Speech, Judith Sunley                        

                Closing Speech, Edmund Gordon                                             

Chapter Three: Panelist Papers and Discussant Comments                        

    Panel One                                                                               

                “Gender and Mathematics,” Elizabeth Fennema

                “Mainstreaming Underserved Students in the K–16+ Continuum to Achieve          
                    Academic Excellence,” Manuel Gómez and Norma Dávila

                “Equity for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Science Education,” 
                 Okhee Lee      

                Discussion, Carole LaCampagne

    Panel Two

                “Rethinking the Role of Special Programs,” Patricia Campbell and Lesli Hoey

                “Effective Programs for Achieving Equity and Diversity,” Vinetta Jones and Anne 

                Gender Issues in Computer Science Education,” Maria Klawe and colleagues

                Discussion, Warren Chapman

    Panel Three

                “Good Grades/Low Test Scores: A Study of the Achievement Gap in Measures of 
                    Quantitative Reasoning,” Lloyd Bond

                “Future Research Related to Equity in Achievement and Course-Taking,” Jeannie 
                 Oakes, Kate Muir, and Rebecca Joseph

                “Underrepresented Minority Achievement,” Richard Tapia and Cynthia Lanius

                Discussion, Norman Webb

Chapter 4: Forum Participants Views                                                                      

    Analysis and Illustration of Participant Views 

    Reports from Small Group Discussions

                Angela Calabrese Barton                                                                              

                Tom Gadsden                                                  

                Joseph Krajcik                                                                                    

                Sharon Lynch                                                                                        

                Jerry Valadez                                                                                      

                Aleta You                                                                                          


Appendix A: The May 2000 NISE Forum    


    List of Participants



Dedicated to Susan

It is fitting that we dedicate this report, which is about making mathematics and science education effective for all students, to Susan Loucks-Horsley. Our sorely missed colleague was someone who shared this ideal¾and lived it. She always reached out to and deeply affected many of us, both professionally and personally. Susan made so many invaluable professional contributions, including here at the National Institute for Science Education. The NISE book by Susan and her team, Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics, has almost instantly become a seminal work in the field. Moreover, she was instrumental in organizing our first annual Forum, and the evolution of the Forum since then has led to a new NISE book on how to design effective meetings and conferences.

Susan’s fame didn’t result just from the substance of her work, but also from how she accomplished it. She “walked the walk” by making networking and collaborating her means of advancing professional development research and projects. Even more, Susan touched the people she worked with by taking a sincere and steady interest in them along the way—always mentoring, always connecting others to some new idea or person. And on top of all this, working with Susan meant you were going to have fun.

We hope she would be happy as these memories prompt us to carry on not just the substance but also the spirit of her work.


As we enter this new millennium, educators and researchers need to know a lot more about how to address the increasingly acute diversity and equity issues in educating today’s and tomorrow’s children in mathematics and science. This headline is a conclusion of the over two hundred distinguished panelists, chairs, discussants, featured speakers, and participants who conferred at the May 2000 annual Forum of the National Institute for Science Education. Existing research certainly provides important insights on how best to enable all students to excel in these vital school subjects. Indeed, you will read that many Forum speakers and participants felt that a much better job needs to be done of disseminating existing research and scaling up effective programs.

However, a particular theme of this report, as expressed in its summaries and many specific examples, is that future research is needed as well. Much previous research has fulfilled the absolutely indispensable service of documenting disparities among types of students in the kinds of mathematics and science education they receive. Such research is necessary but not sufficient. As pointed out in the Forum’s opening remarks by Kent McGuire, the director of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) at the U.S. Department of Education, the research agenda needs to expand beyond describing the problems in better detail, although such efforts surely must continue.

This report draws upon the papers, presentations, and discussions of our most recent NISE Forum. The entire institute has collaborated over the years with Forum organizers Ted Britton and Senta Raizen to make the Forum into a premier event that brings together top-flight speakers and participants and engages them in an active dialogue about pressing issues in the field. I’m grateful to the many professionals who are noted in the acknowledgments and contributors’ pages for making this year’s Forum such a success.

The Forum fosters an uncommon depth to participant deliberations primarily by having all speakers prepare papers prior to the Forum and circulating them for participants to read in advance. In fact, Corwin Press recently published an NISE book written by Susan Mundry and Ted Britton in collaboration with Senta Raizen and Susan Loucks-Horsley, Designing Effective Conferences and Meetings in Education, that is in part based on our experiences in making the NISE Forum into a knowledge-generating event (

While the Forum each year has been generously supported by the National Science Foundation, additional funding from OERI has this year permitted us to take the Forum a step farther. We have always been concerned as to how to capture the tremendous expertise brought to bear at the Forum. In the past we have produced reports that included Forum speeches and comments from participants but little analysis. Due to the importance of this year’s topic and the success of the NISE Forum, OERI has enabled us to produce a more substantial document for wide circulation. It goes a level deeper than a simple proceedings document by including more summary and analysis of speaker and participant comments. Chapter 1 describes the sources of information for this report as well as their strengths and limitations.

Because nothing is more important to science and mathematics education than addressing diversity and equity issues, this has been a cross-cutting theme at NISE during its first five years. Eight NISE research monographs and information about a book by NISE fellow Sharon Lynch on diversity and equity issues in mathematics and science education are available on our Web site ( Contributors include Jane Butler Kahle, Okhee Lee, Alberto Rodriguez, and William Tate.

I earnestly hope that this report will be helpful to researchers, policymakers, education leaders, and teachers in considering future plans for research and action. 


Andrew Porter 
Madison, Wisconsin
October 2000

Authors and Contributors

NISE Staff (Chapters 1, 2, 4)

Edward Britton             Associate Director, National Center for Improving Science Education

Joyce Kaser                 Senior Researcher, National Center for Improving Science Education.

Andrew Porter             Director, National Institute for Science Education

Senta Raizen                 Director, National Center for Improving Science Education


Forum Keynote Speakers (Chapter 2)

Edmund Gordon           Professor Emeritus, Psychology, Yale University

Kent McGuire              Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Education,
                                    Office of Education Research and Improvement

Judith Sunley                Interim Assistant Director, National Science Foundation,
    Education and Human Resources

Forum Panelists* and Discussants (Chapter 3)

Panel 1

Elizabeth Fennema        Professor, Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Manual Gomez             Director, Systemic Reform Initiative, Puerto Rico

Okhee Lee                   Professor, Education, University of Miami

Carole LaCampagne     Senior Research Advisor for Mathematics,
                                    U.S. Department of Education


Panel 2

Patricia Campbell         Principal, Campbell-Kibler Associates

Vinetta Jones                Dean of Education, Howard University 

Maria Klawe                Dean of Science, University of British Columbia

Warren Chapman         Program Officer, Education, Joyce Foundation


Panel 3

Lloyd Bond                  Professor, Education, University of North Carolina

Jeannie Oakes              Associate Dean, Graduate School of Education, UC-Los Angeles

Richard Tapia               Professor of Mathematics, Rice University

Norman Webb             Team Leader, Systemic Reform, NISE


* Co-authors are identified in Table of Contents.


Reporters from Small Group Discussions (Chapter 4)

Angela Calabrese Barton          Professor, Education, University of Texas-Austin

Tom Gadsden                           Associate Director, Eisenhower National Clearinghouse

Joe Krajcik                              Professor, Education, University of Michigan

Sharon Lynch                           Professor, Education, George Washington University

Jerry Valadez                           Science Coordinator, Fresno Unified School District

Aleta You                                 Senior Equity Specialist, New Jersey Systemic Initiative


We gratefully acknowledge the many individuals who made the 2000 NISE Forum a success and helped with this report. The following steering committee members provided invaluable guidance on developing the agenda, identifying experts to be on the program, and more: Juanita Clay Chambers, Jane Butler Kahle, Julio Lopez-Ferrao, Walter Secada, Richard Tapia, and William Tate. We thank Jane and Julio for their extra efforts in helping us recruit key people to be Forum attendees. We also owe an additional thank you to Juanita and her staff for helping with local conference arrangements in Detroit. The planning committee at NISE transformed the steering committee’s advice into a detailed agenda, specific arrangements, etc. In addition to the authors, the planning committee included NISE co-director Robert Mathieu, project manager Paula White, and researcher Aaron Brower.

A special thank you goes to all of the accomplished experts who served on the Forum’s program as panelists, keynote speakers, discussants, or reporters for the small group discussions. [See “Authors and Contributors.”] We also thank the Forum participants for writing and discussing such rich ideas during the small group discussions. David Walsh’s work as our conference assistant was conscientious and detail-oriented. Production of this report wouldn’t have been possible without research by our intern, Betsy Moyer, editorial assistance from Nita Congress, and design work and printing by Corporate Press.

We are indebted to our funders for both their material and substantive support. At the National Science Foundation, Eric Hamilton and Eamon Kelley helped us identify diversity and equity as a timely focus for this year’s Forum, Jane Butler Kahle and Julio Lopez served on the steering committee, and Larry Suter offered advice throughout the process. We also thank Maureen Treacy for arranging supplemental support from the Office for Educational Research and Improvement to produce this report. Nikki Filby at WestEd’s Western Regional Laboratory and Gary Estes, a deputy director of WestEd, were very helpful in supporting our work through the OERI task order awarded to WREL. We especially want to thank the leaders of OERI and NSF’s education directorate, Kent McGuire and Judith Sunley, for making room in their crowded calendars to prepare very insightful keynote presentations and to participate in the overall Forum.



The fifth annual Forum of the National Institute for Science Education, held in May 2000, considered diversity and equity issues in mathematics and science education, with special emphasis on research directions for the future. The topics discussed at the Forum covered a wide range of curricular and instructional equity issues in K-12 education, including the scaling up of successful programs. A number of clear research directions emerged from the Forum, as summarized below.

Access to Courses and Teachers

·        Documenting in detail the inequitable access to high-level mathematics and science courses. How does inequitable access affect specific population groups? Does the current emphasis on Advanced Placement courses increase inequities in college admission? What is the role of school counselors in exacerbating inequities in course-taking opportunity?

·        Research on incentives to recruit science and mathematics faculty members who mirror the diversity of the student body. What are the barriers to getting experienced, diverse faculty for the students who most need them? How effective are the emerging incentives for recruiting teachers for schools serving these students and for retaining them?

Content, Instruction, and Assessment

·        Research on culturally appropriate and effective science and mathematics content. How can curricula balance the culture that students bring to school with the world for which their education must prepare them? What should be the orientation toward Western science and alternative views of science so as to equip diverse students to understand the dominant paradigms of scientific research and current knowledge?

·        Research on and development of instruction that will allow students from different cultural backgrounds to learn science and mathematics. How does instruction need to be shaped to meet diverse cultural norms, for example, respect for authority, although Western science promotes questioning and argument? What influences the development of mathematical reasoning in different population groups? Why do students from underrepresented groups who earn good grades in school mathematics fail to achieve comparable scores on mathematics tests?

·        Research on assessments that will allow students from diverse backgrounds to demonstrate what they know and can do in science and mathematics. What is the interplay between students’ socialization, cultures and languages, different forms of assessment, and the opportunity they have to demonstrate their competence in science and mathematics? How can large-scale assessments be monitored to ensure their alignment with standards? What additional measures need to be developed to facilitate the use of multiple measures in assessing what diverse students know and can do in mathematics and science?

Understanding and Scaling up Effective Programs

·        Compiling programs that successfully address current inequities and research on effective replication on a broad scale. What are the successful programs that should be scaled up? What are the lessons learned? What are effective and ineffective strategies for increasing access for and achievement of diverse student groups? How can reforms harness the system’s resources to scale up from a few successful sites? What are the roles of parents and communities?

·        Improved evaluation of intervention programs. Do evaluations document the relationships between student achievement and the system’s processes of accountability and resource allocation to needy schools? Do evaluations consider unintended consequences that can thwart a program’s success? Are there longitudinal evaluations in place that can determine more definitively the effects of reform initiatives on underrepresented groups?

Teacher Preparation, Induction, and Professional Development

·        Research on effective preparation and support programs for teachers to deal effectively with the needs of the diverse learners in their classrooms. How can teaching for diversity be infused throughout teacher education as the essence rather than relegating equity and diversity issues to a separate, single problematic topic? What teaching strategies do preservice and in-service teachers need to know and practice to deal effectively with the learning needs in their classrooms?

·        Research on the support needed for beginning teachers. How can beginning teachers be supported in learning how to address diversity and equity issues? How can we provide effective experiences in an efficient way that will help beginning teachers successfully teach mathematics and science to all their students?

Better Research Methods and Dissemination

·        Disaggregation of data to more accurately reveal inequities in access and achievement. How do diverse groups of learners respond to various interventions? How can the “achievement gap” be described more accurately in terms of diverse student populations?

·        Improving the pool of researchers to more closely reflect the diversity of the K-12 student body. Are the voices of females, underrepresented groups, language and culturally diverse groups heard in the framing of research questions, data gathering, and analyses on mathematics and science learning? How can information technology be used to include these groups in research on equity and diversity issues?

·        Improved dissemination of existing research on equity and diversity issues in mathematics and science education.  How can existing knowledge be shared more widely? How can it be translated and packaged so that people—community leaders, administrators, leaders in mathematics or science education, teachers—can use it?

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