Copyright 2008-9 by the author.

Dissertation defended on February 7, 2008, in the Department of Mathematics and Science Education, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

This page is dedicated to the hundreds of teachers who responded in 2007 (and principals, in 2008) to email and mailing list pleas for assistance. Without these replies no dissertation or subsequent articles would have been possible. You have my utmost gratitude and respect for the hard work you do in high schools (I know, I taught there too!)

Please note that as of May 10, 2008, I was no longer officially at the University of Georgia.  

Linked to this page are some summaries but as the research got published, the articles have become the materials available here.

Dr. Larry Krumenaker

Dissertation Abstract

A spring 2007 nationwide survey of high school astronomy teachers investigated: how many high schools teach astronomy, teacher backgrounds, student demographics, classroom materials and facilities and other facets of the modern course. Comparisons were made to Philip Sadler’s 1986 survey and to various states’ Departments of Education data. This multimethods study included qualitative questions investigating teachers’ perceptions about effects from 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) on their classes, views of course futures in their schools, and the nation. Other questions solicited their community wisdom on starting a course, defending it, and what needs to be done to increase their number.

Significant conclusions include: the number of regular classes are about 3200, totaling up to 4000 when a ‘hidden’ single-digit-sized classes population is added in; fully 20% of all classes may be with 10 or fewer students. A course is found in 2500 schools, 12-13% of all U.S. high schools.

Many of Sadler’s numbers are unchanged in 22 years. However, the ratio of male to female teachers has gone from 88:12 to 67:33. Many teachers now come from the bioscience and geoscience majors, not physics. We tally 3-4% more schools now than Sadler, and nearly twice the teachers (3200).

Schools with astronomy are more often Passing in Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) than the national norm. Classes generally reflect racial, gender and ethnic demographics of their schools and the nation.

More than half of all teachers claim no direct effects from NCLB on their courses, most of the rest seeing negative effects, generally dependent on how other science, math and language courses fare.

A growing number supplant conventional planetariums with computer "planetarium" software, currently at the same rate as portables ownership.

Twenty-eight percent of teachers are not ‘highly qualified’ in that they have never had an astronomy course, let alone an astronomy degree.

Teachers are generally more optimistic than pessimistic but their optimism is mostly for their school, not for the fate of courses around the nation.

A six-part plan for starting a class is developed and six defensive arguments are also offered.

A short, five page summary can be found here.
Published article The Modern U.S. High School Astronomy Course, its Status and Makeup, and the Effects of No Child Left Behind, December 2009, Astronomy Education Review based on the 260 response "Spring Survey" of teachers via email/Web.  That file is here.
A second survey went out in the Fall of 2007 via postal rather than electronic means. That research was published in the same issue of Astronomy Education Review  in December 2009 as The Modern U.S. High School Astronomy Course, Its Status and Makeup II: Additional Results. That file is here. 
These are from a talk given at NSTA Boston in March 2008.
  1. How to start a high school course of astronomy, click here.
  2. How to defend an existing high school course when threatened by NCLB or other influences, click here.

A list of resources that teachers use to keep up with astronomy, astronomy education pedagogy, and the community of astronomy educators (the subject of a January 2008 AAPT presentation) can be found at here.

A last, third survey went out in the Spring of 2008 to principals (or other schedule deciders) at schools without astronomy. An article based on this survey has been published by Astronomy Education Review (Vol 9, #1, 2010) and went online January 2010 entitled as What It Would Take to Increase the Number of High School  Astronomy Courses: A Survey of Principals and a Comparison to Astronomy Teachers, and a
Prescription for Change.  That last part is a summary of all three surveys' results molded into  a procedure that can be used to increase the number of astronomy courses in American high schools.  It can be downloaded here. 

An article based upon this research specifically on schools with planetariums appeared in the December 2008 issue of the journal The Planetarian: Journal of the International Planetarium Society.  That article, High Schools with Planetariums: Results of a Survey is not available online but can be downloaded here.

An article on No Child Left Behind's effects on high school astronomy courses appeared in The Science Educator, Fall 2009 issue.  It can be read here.

Three tangible benefits directly spinning off of these results...

The Magazine for Astronomy Teachers

Click the above to find out where the next of our workshops will take place, or invite us to your school!

Hermograph Press
Hermograph Press

Science and Astronomy Education Materials

For further information or to offer speaking engagements, contact Dr. Lawrence Krumenaker via email larryk {at}

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