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Why Isn't Science Teaching a Profession? An Expert Explains

Sheila Tobias will lead a lecture and workshop for NYC science teachers at the Academy.

Published March 15, 2010

Students aren’t the only ones dropping out of American schools today. Their teachers are leaving too. Poor working conditions and low pay are the oft-cited reasons. The dropout problem among science teachers is especially critical because they’re so difficult to replace.

Sheila Tobias has a simple but revolutionary proposition: Until and unless science teachers are successfully recruited into leadership at the school, district, state, and national levels, it is doubtful the nation will succeed in increasing student achievement because it will have failed to meet and satisfy teachers' needs.

Tobias and working scientists will lead "Science Teaching as a Profession: Why it Isn't, How it Could Be," on March 23 at the New York Academy of Sciences. The lecture and workshop is the second event hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences' new NYC Science Education Initiative, which was created to give science teachers a forum to discuss best educational practices and engage classroom teachers with the scientific community at large. As part of the initiative the Academy is inviting up to 1,400 New York City science teachers to join its premiere network of scientists in order to enable science educators to assemble an organic community in which they, like other professional scientist members of the Academy, can share best practices, examine their work, and exchange innovative science education strategies. More than 600 teachers have already taken the Academy up on its offer.

Tobias is codirector of the Science Teaching as a Profession project, aimed at elevating the status of secondary school science teachers, and she is coauthor, with Anne Baffert, of Science Teaching as a Profession. The project was supported by Research Corporation for Science Advancement from 2007-2009, and the resulting book is scheduled to be published in soft cover by the National Science teachers Association, early this year.

Supported by the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Research Corporation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Sheila Tobias’ work has made her a sought-after consultant on college and university curricula, general education, post-baccalaureate alternatives, professional master's in science and mathematics, and women's studies. Educated in history and literature at Harvard/Radcliffe, Tobias earned a master's in history and an MPhil at Columbia University as well as eight honorary doctorates, the most recent from Michigan State University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

WHAT: SCIENCE TEACHING AS A PROFESSION: Why It Isn’t. How it Could Be, with Sheila Tobias, codirector, Science Teaching as a Profession project, and coauthor, Science Teaching as a Profession

WHERE: The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center,
250 Greenwich St., 40th floor

WHEN: Tuesday, March 23 | 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

A networking reception will follow the event. Admission is free for members of the Academy.

For more information on the NYC Science Education Initiative, or to register for the Science Teaching as a Profession event, please see the Academy's website. Media must register in advance by contacting Carmen McCaffery at or 212.298.8642.

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. With 24,000 members in 140 countries, NYAS is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. NYAS' core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large.