Teacher Descriptions of Classroom Practice
The design of the core evaluation calls for administration of questionnaires to a random sample of teachers who are targeted for LSC professional development regardless of whether they have actually participated in the LSC at that point. Therefore, in the early years of the LSC initiative, when only a small subset of teachers have participated, the questionnaire data are more useful in describing the general status of science and mathematics instruction in these districts than in evaluating the impact of the LSC.
One finding from these questionnaires is that in LSC districts, as is the case nationally, science is taught less frequently than is mathematics at the elementary level. Whether targeted for professional development in science or mathematics, these elementary teachers were most likely to report teaching reading/language arts each day of the last five (nearly 90 percent in each group), followed by mathematics (80 to 86 percent). Only about 1 in 4 teachers in each group reported teaching science or social studies on a daily basis. (See Figure 38.)
Teachers were also asked to respond to a series of items about instructional practice, indicating how often they used each of a number of instructional strategies in their science and mathematics classes. Factor analysis of these responses was used to create two composites of related items. The "studentcentered" composite includes the frequency with which the teacher arranges seating to facilitate student discussion; encourages students to explain concepts to one another; allows students to work at their own pace; and involves students in such activities as formal presentations to the class, studentled discussions, and small group work. The "investigativeculture" composite includes the extent to which the teacher uses openended questions; requires students to explain their reasons or supply evidence to support their claims; and involves students in science and mathematics investigations.
Teachers Reporting Instruction in Each Subject on All 5 of the Last 5 daysFigure 38
Based on teacher reports, science and mathematics classes were similar in the extent to which they used a studentcentered approach, with a mean of approximately 70 percent of total points possible on that composite in each group. As can be seen in Figure 39, there was some variation among projects, with means ranging from 65 to 77 percent in Cohort 1 science, from 62 to 74 percent in Cohort 2 science, and from 67 to 73 percent in Cohort 2 mathematics projects. The composite scores for "investigative culture" were also similar for the three groups, averaging just over 60 percent in each case. (See Figure 40.)
Figure 39
Figure 40
While the overall composite scores were similar, an examination of individual items reveals a number of differences between science and mathematics instruction. Table 12 shows the percent of science and mathematics teachers who reported that each of a number of instructional activities occurred at least once a week. Note that mathematics classes were more likely than science classes to include such activities as teacher presentations of content information, work on solving realworld problems, and homework review at least once a week.
Table 12
Classes Participating in Each Activity at Least Once a Week

Percent of Classes 

Cohort 1 Science 
Cohort 2 Science 
Cohort 2 Mathematics 
Teacherled discussions  81  82  88 
Work in cooperative learning groups  74  70  69 
Teacher presentation of content information  73  86  91 
Handson activities  64  53  74 
Share ideas or solve problems in small groups  54  51  59 
Write reflections in a notebook/journal  38  32  25 
Review homework  30  37  74 
Work on solving realworld problems  30  32  59 
Work on extended investigations  26  25  9 
Work on portfolios  16  14  13 
Student presentations  18  21  22 
Table 13 shows the percent of classes that ever participated in particular instructional activities. While mathematics lessons were more likely to include reading from a textbook, science lessons were more likely to include reading other nontextbook materials. Both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 science classes were more likely than Cohort 2 mathematics classes to include having the students conduct extended investigations, work on portfolios, and write reflections in a notebook or journal some time during the semester.
Table 13
Activities Ever Occurring in Science and Mathematics Classes

Percent of Classes 

Cohort 1 Science 
Cohort 2 Science 
Cohort 2 Mathematics 
Read from nontextbook materials in class  93  93  60 
Conduct extended investigations  88  87  73 
Participate in field work/field trips  88  83  83 
Write reflections in a notebook/journal  86  82  64 
Work on portfolios  69  65  51 
Read from a textbook in class  57  63  69 
Table 14 shows the percent of classes where teachers report using each of a number of instructional strategies to provide student understanding. Interestingly, science instruction was more likely than mathematics instruction to include the use of openended questions, while students in mathematics lessons were more likely to be allowed to work at their own pace and to be asked to explain their reasoning or supply evidence to support their claims.
Table 14
Instructional Strategies Used at Least Once a Week

Percent of Classes 

Cohort 1 Science 
Cohort 2 Science 
Cohort 2 Mathematics 
Use openended questions  83  81  68 
Arrange seating to facilitate discussion  77  71  71 
Allow students to work at their own pace  72  66  81 
Encourage students to explain concepts to one another  64  62  72 
Encourage students to consider alternative explanations  65  66  72 
Require students to explain their reasons/supply evidence to support their claims  59  56  85 
Read and comment on student journals  33  32  31 
Finally, the teacher questionnaire focused on the use of various strategies to assess student understanding of science and mathematics. As can be seen in Figure 41, the mean percent of total points possible on the use of assessment strategies composite was approximately 50 percent for each group. Project means varied quite a bit, ranging from 41 to 53 percent in Cohort 1 science, from 42 to 58 percent in Cohort 2 science, and from 42 to 58 percent in Cohort 2 mathematics.
The relatively low means in the assessment composite are to be expected. While a very high score on student centered strategies is desirable, a score of 100 percent would mean that a class wrote reflections in a notebook or journal, worked on portfolios, took tests requiring constructed responses or essays, and engaged in performance tasks for assessment purposes on a daily basis. Even if much of that assessment were embedded in instruction, such a class would likely be spending far too much time finding out what students know and far too little time moving their conceptual understanding forward. With that understanding, the assessment composite is useful for looking at trends over time.
Based on teacher reports, the majority of both science and mathematics classes engage in performance tasks for assessment purposes at least once a month. (See Table 15.) Note that mathematics classes are considerably more likely than science classes to take shortanswer tests, whether publishers' tests or those developed by the teachers. In contrast, science classes are more likely to have students write their reflections on a fairly frequent basis.
Figure 41
Table 15
Assessment Activities in Science and Mathematics Classes
Using Each Type of Assessment at Least Once a Month

Percent of Classes 

Cohort 1 Science 
Cohort 2 Science 
Cohort 2 Mathematics 
Write reflections in a notebook/journal  66  59  47 
Engage in performance tasks for assessment purposes  62  56  63 
Work on portfolios  40  41  36 
Take teacherdeveloped shortanswer tests  32  45  58 
Take tests requiring constructed responses or essays  31  33  38 
Take publishers' tests or endofchapter tests  21  33  65 
Evaluator Descriptions of Classroom Practice
Additional information on science and mathematics instruction comes from the classroom observations and accompanying interviews, including information about the composition of classes, available resources, and the frequency of various instructional activities.
The lead evaluator of each LSC project was given a list of 10 randomly selected teachers and asked to observe a class in targeted subject during the period March through May 1996. For Cohort 1 projects, the sample to be observed was drawn from a list of teachers who had already participated in LSC professional development.
Student Demographics
 The typical class had 2125 students in class at the time of the observation; only 7 percent of observed classes had more than 30 students.
Class Size
Figure 42
 Minority enrollment in LSC classes is quite high; in half of the observed classes, more than onehalf of the students were members of minority groups.
Minority Enrollment in Observed Classes
Figure 43
Adequacy of the Physical Environment
Observers found a "normal distribution" in terms of classroom resources, with 83 percent of the classes rated at 2, 3, or 4 on a fivepoint scale from 1, "sparsely equipped" to 5, "rich in resources."
There appeared to be a difference between Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 classes in terms of adequacy of classroom space, with more than twothirds of Cohort 2 science and mathematics classes, but fewer than onethird of Cohort 1 science classes judged to have adequate space (4 or 5 on a fivepoint scale, where 1 is "crowded.")
Purposes and Content of the Lessons
Prior to each observation, the teacher was asked about the purposes of the lesson. As can be seen in Figure 44, there were major differences in reported purposes of science and mathematics lessons. For both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 science classes, developing conceptual understanding was the most frequentlycited purpose of the lesson, with more than 60 percent of observed teachers (compared to only 36 percent in mathematics) indicating conceptual development was a major purpose. Similarly, about 20 percent of the science lessons had identifying student prior conceptions as a major intended purpose, compared to fewer than 10 percent for mathematics.
Purposes of Science and Mathematics LessonsFigure 44
In contrast, mathematics lessons were much more likely to focus on reviewing concepts: review was cited as a major purpose for 51 percent of the observed Cohort 2 mathematics lessons, compared to 11 percent for Cohort 1 science and 23 percent for Cohort 2 science. In fact, 38 percent of the Cohort 2 mathematics lessons had reviewing concepts as the only major purpose listed, compared to 2 percent of the Cohort 1 science lessons and 7 percent of the Cohort 2 science lessons.
In terms of disciplinary content, both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 science observed lessons were much more likely to focus on life science than on either physical science or earth/space science; only a handful of lessons focused on engineering and design principles.
Focus of Science LessonsFigure 45
Mathematics lessons most frequently focused on computation, followed by measurement, numeration and number theory, and mathematical patterns and relationships. Very few mathematics lessons included a focus on data analysis and probability or algebraic concepts.
Focus of Cohort 2 Mathematics LessonsFigure 46
Classroom Activities
As can be seen in Table 16, a typical observed lesson included both a formal presentation by the teacher and some kind of handson/investigative activity by the students. Teacher presentations were particularly prevalent in the baseline mathematics classes, with 89 percent of the observed lessons including a formal presentation by the teacher, compared to 78 percent of baseline science classes and 71 percent of Cohort 1 science classes.
Table 16
Instructional Activities in Observed Classes

Percent of classes 

Cohort 1 Science 
Cohort 2 Science 
Cohort 2 Mathematics 
Formal presentation by teacher  71  78  89 
Handson/investigative activity  73  60  72 
Following detailed instructions  56  44  57 
Record/analyze/represent data  44  33  18 
Work on models/simulations  19  14  6 
Design/implement own investigations  7  2  3 
Play game to develop/renew knowledge/skills  2  11  14 
Field work/field trip  1  3  0 
Class discussion  45  40  18 
Whole class, teacher led  38  37  15 
Small groups  12  10  3 
Whole class, student led  3  1  0 
Reading/writing/reflection  65  59  45 
Writing reflections in notebooks/journals  22  8  1 
Reflecting on activities individually or in groups  17  15  5 
Answering textbook/worksheet problems  12  24  38 
Reading about science/mathematics  11  17  7 
Practicing routine computations  1  3  12 
Identifying patterns  1  2  5 
In both science and mathematics classes, investigative activities tended to be ones in which students followed a detailed set of instructions rather than designing and implementing their own investigations. Both Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 science lessons were more likely than Cohort 2 mathematics lessons to include having students work on models or simulations and be involved in recording or analyzing data.
Similarly, class discussions were more commonly observed in science lessons than in mathematics; in both subjects these were much more likely to be whole class discussion led by the teacher than either small group discussion or studentled whole group discussion.
Relatively few observed classes in either Cohort involved students in reading about science or mathematics. In contrast, answering textbook/worksheet questions was fairly common, especially in the baseline classes, with 12 percent of Cohort 1 science classes, 24 percent of Cohort 2 science classes, and 38 percent of Cohort 2 mathematics classes involved in that activity. Finally, science lessons of Cohort 1 treated teachers were more likely to have students writing their reflections in a notebook or journal (22 percent compared to 8 percent of Cohort 2 science lessons and 1 percent of Cohort 2 mathematics lessons.)