March 03, 2010

Too often, administrators ask teachers to accept unsafe conditions

The introduction of a lab program into a high school is an expensive venture. Lab facilities and equipment require capital expenditures. The replenishment of supplies requires additional annual funds. In addition, safety requirements place limits on the number of students that can be properly supervised in a classroom. 

Too often, administrators ask teachers to accept unsafe conditions by packing too many students in the lab space. When teachers object, the administrator may suggest that we sacrifice the quality of teaching by not providing lab experiences at all. This Hobson's choice forces teachers to make a bad decision—unsafe conditions or poor instruction. 
In contrast, high schools across the United States support football teams that similarly require large expenditures for equipment and subscribe to required safety requirements. The football coach is never asked to use sub-standard helmets or to cancel play. High school science should not be considered less important than high school football.
Excerpts from comments by Dr. Arthur Eisenkraft, Distinguished Professor of Science Education; Director, Center of Science and Math in Context (COSMIC), University of Massachusetts, Boston, at the Hearing: Improving the Laboratory Experience for America's High School Students, before the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education Committee on Science and Technology, House of Representatives, 110th Congress, first session, March 8, 2007