About the Study

The first NSSME was conducted in 1977 as part of a major assessment of science and mathematics education commissioned by the National Science Foundation. The study consisted of a comprehensive review of the literature; case studies of 11 districts throughout the United States; and a national survey of teachers, principals, and district and state personnel. A second survey of teachers and principals was conducted in 1985–86 to identify trends since 1977, a third survey was conducted in 1993, a fourth in 2000, and a fifth in 2012.

Reports of the earlier studies can be found here: Reports from Previous National Surveys

Research Questions
The 2012 NSSME collected data to answer several research questions, including:

  1. What instructional/assessment practices do science and mathematics teachers use, and how well do these align with current understanding of learning?
  1. What influences teachers’ decisions about content and pedagogy?
  1. What are the characteristics of the science/mathematics teaching force in terms of race, gender, age, content background, beliefs about teaching and learning, and perceptions of preparedness?
  1. What are the most commonly used textbooks/programs, and how are they used?
  1. What formal and informal opportunities do science/mathematics teachers have for on-going development of their knowledge and skills?
  1. How are resources for science/mathematics education, including well-prepared teachers and course offerings, distributed among schools in different types of communities and different socioeconomic levels?
Data Collection Procedures
The 2012 NSSME was designed to place minimal burden on school staff and to avoid intrusions on the instructional day. No data were collected from students.

Principals of sampled schools were asked to identify a school coordinator, who electronically submitted a list of teacher names and teaching assignments for the purpose of assembling the teacher sampling frame. HRI sent a one-page letter to each sampled teacher, with instructions for completing the web-based questionnaire and unique log-in information. This letter also included all information needed for teachers to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate. The letter included a toll-free number teachers could call to request a paper survey or a phone interview as an alternative to web completion of the questionnaire. The survey was hosted on a secure (https) server. 

All survey data received by HRI were stored separately from information that would identify an individual teacher (e.g., name, contact information). Survey data will be reported only in aggregate form, such as by grade level or region of the country. No information identifying individual districts, schools, or teachers will ever be released.

The 2012 NSSME used a stratified, two-stage probability sample of schools and science and mathematics teachers in grades K–12 in the United States. In the first stage, 2,000 elementary and secondary schools were selected within sampling strata with probability proportional to size. In the second stage, 10,000 science and mathematics teachers were sampled at predetermined rates to ensure the required number of teachers for domain estimates, such as for particular regions or types of communities.

The target population for the teacher sample consisted of teachers in eligible schools who teach science and/or mathematics. The sampling frame for the teacher sample in each stratum (e.g., high schools) was constructed using lists of teachers and their teaching assignments. Oversampling of teachers of advanced science and mathematics was done in order to provide separate results for the various subgroups.

Eric R. Banilower
Principal Investigator

P. Sean Smith
Co-Principal Investigator

Iris R. Weiss
Co-Principal Investigator

Endorsing Organizations
The following organizations endorsed the 2012 NSSME:

  • American Association of Physics Teachers
  • American Chemical Society, Education Division
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators
  • Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics
  • Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum
  • Council of State Science Supervisors
  • National Association of Biology Teachers
  • National Association of Elementary School Principals
  • National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • National Catholic Education Association
  • National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
  • National Earth Science Teachers Association
  • National Education Association
  • National School Boards Association
  • National Science Education Leadership Association
  • National Science Teachers Association