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National Survey of High School Biology Teachers




Plutzer, E., & Berkman, M. B. (2019, February 10). National Survey of High School Biology Teachers.


The National Survey of High School Biology Teachers is based on a nationally representative probability sample of U.S. public high school biology teachers. A total of 926 teachers completed questionnaires, either pencil and paper surveys or on the web, between March 1 and May 5 of 2007. Teachers responded to 86 questions pertaining to their educational backgrounds, teaching practices, and personal attitudes. The survey focused on respondents' approach to teaching evolution and creationism in the classroom. Teachers' personal views and understanding of evolution were examined, as well as potential outside influences on their teaching, such as parents, school board members, and religious leaders.

The ARDA has added two additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 926
Variables: 88
Weight Variable: POST_STR

Data Collection

March 1 - May 5, 2007

Original Survey (Instrument)

National Survey of High School Biology Teachers

Funded By

National Science Foundation
Spencer Foundation
John Templeton Foundation

Collection Procedures

The data collection procedures were approved by the Penn State IRB (IRB #24387). More precisely, the data are from two simultaneous studies using identical questionnaires and overlapping sampling frames. One study was a mail-only study with teachers selected randomly from a database maintained by Quality Education Data, Inc. The database contains names and school mailing addresses for more than 80% of public school teachers in the United States. To be eligible for selection, teachers needed to be in a public school that included grades 9 and 10 and had to include "biology," "life sciences," or "AP biology" among the 1-6 job descriptors in the database. This operational definition permitted the surveying of educators whose primary field was in another science or in science support (e.g., computer lab coordinator) and this group of teachers comprise 2% of those invited to participate. Completed surveys were discarded if the educator did not teach a high school biology class during the previous year or had recently retired. Following the Tailored Design Method for mail surveys, 500 teachers received a pre-notification letter, a survey packet (with a two dollar bill and postage-paid return envelope), a reminder postcard, and a replacement packet. We received 200 completed questionnaires for a return rate of 40%.

The second study is based on 1,500 names drawn from a subset of the original database based on the availability of a working email address. This allowed us to not only include all features from the first study but also two additional email follow-up reminders. These emails included a link to a web version of the survey, making this survey "multimodal." A total of 739 respondents completed the multi-modal study for a return rate of 49%. Respondents from both surveys are combined in all analyses reported in this paper. After excluding 58 "out of scope" respondents (e.g., bad address, no longer teaching, not a biology teacher), the return rate for the combined data set is 48% (926/1942). The response rate (AAPOR formula RR4) is 50%.

Principal Investigators

Eric Plutzer, Penn State University
Michael B. Berkman, Penn State University

Related Publications

Berkman, Michael B. and Eric Plutzer. 2011. "Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not in the Classroom." Science 331:404-405.

Berkman, Michael B. and Eric Plutzer. 2010. Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Berkman, Michael B., Julianna Sandell Pacheco, and Eric Plutzer. 2008. "Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait." PLoS Biology 6(5): e124. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060124

Bibliographic Citation

Plutzer, Eric and Michael B. Berkman. National Survey of High School Biology Teachers, 2007. Public use data file; January 12, 2010 release.

Sampling Weight

The public-use data set contains a post-stratification weight variable, post_str. Use of this weight produces a data set that more closely matches the national distribution of school characteristics with respect to region, size of community, and the racial/ethnic distribution of the school. In practice, weighted and unweighted analyses are virtually identical. Recent publications by the investigators have employed unweighted data.

Public Use Data Set

This codebook accompanies the public-use release of the National Survey of High School Biology Teachers data set. The data set contains responses from 926 teachers and contains 83 variables from the questionnaire and five constructed measures. Missing values are typically coded as "." Responses to open-ended questions are not included in this release. The public-use data set contains only two geographic identifiers as the release of school or school district codes might permit individual teachers to be identified. The data set includes the postal code for the U.S. state in which the school is located (st_posta), and it includes an index of cosmopolitanism/traditionalism of the school district (cosmo_index). This index collapse the very highest and lowest scores (nine out of 926) and rounds the original index to a single decimal in order to mask the actual location; it is, nevertheless, correlated with the original measure (r = 0.99) and should yield comparable results in statistical analysis. For more details on this measure, see:

Berkman, Michael B. and Eric Plutzer. 2010. Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America's Classrooms. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The data set also contains a constructed typology of teacher practices, teachtype. The construction of this variable is described in the Supplementary Online Materials (SOM) accompanying:

Berkman, Michael B. and Eric Plutzer. 2011. "Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not in the Classroom." Science 331:404-405.

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