The recommendations in Rising Above the Gathering Storm appeared in order of the importance ascribed to them by the authoring committee, and improving K-12 science and math education remains the most pressing issue facing policymakers today, said Deborah Stine, Specialist in Science and Technology Policy at the Congressional Research Service, who was study director for the committee that wrote the report. Specifically, the report recommended efforts to attract undergraduate students majoring in science and math into teaching, to upgrade the skills of existing teachers, and to expand access to more demanding Advance Placement and International Baccalaureate science and math courses in U.S. high schools. U.S. students continue to perform below average on international comparisons of science and mathematics achievement.
Furthermore, the performance of U.S. students on international comparisons declines as students progress from elementary school to middle school to high school. Partly as a result, the proportion of U.S. high school students who choose to obtain science and engineering degrees in college remains lower than in many other countries.
In the abstract, parents agree that science and mathematics are important, said Sally Ride, CEO of Sally Ride Science. “But parents don’t see it as important for their son or daughter, and kids don’t see it as important for themselves.“ The challenge is to convert an abstract concern into actions that have an effect on every U.S. student.
School systems throughout the country struggle to hire teachers who are qualified to teach science and mathematics. “More than 60 percent of the math teachers in this country teaching fifth through eighth graders are not either a math major or certified in math,” said Ride. “And in the physical sciences, it’s even worse.” As a result, teachers
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RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM TWO YEARS LATER K-12 Science and Mathematics Education The recommendations in Rising Above the Gathering Storm appeared in order of the importance ascribed to them by the authoring committee, and improving K-12 science and math education remains the most pressing issue facing policymakers today, said Deborah Stine, Specialist in Science and Technology Policy at the Congressional Research Service, who was study director for the committee that wrote the report. Specifically, the report recommended efforts to attract undergraduate students majoring in science and math into teaching, to upgrade the skills of existing teachers, and to expand access to more demanding Advance Placement and International Baccalaureate sci- ence and math courses in U.S. high schools. U.S. students continue to perform below average on interna- tional comparisons of science and mathematics achievement. Furthermore, the performance of U.S. students on international com- parisons declines as students prog- ress from elementary school to mid- dle school to high school. Partly as a result, the proportion of U.S. high school students From left to right, Bob who choose to obtain science and engineering degrees in college remains lower than in Schieffer, Sally many other countries. Ride, Craig Barrett, and G. In the abstract, parents agree that science and mathematics are important, said Sally Wayne Clough Ride, CEO of Sally Ride Science. “But parents don’t see it as important for their son or daughter, and kids don’t see it as important for themselves.” The challenge is to convert an abstract concern into actions that have an effect on every U.S. student. Teacher Recruitment, Training, and Support School systems throughout the country struggle to hire teachers who are qualified to teach science and mathematics. “More than 60 percent of the math teachers in this coun- try teaching fifth through eighth graders are not either a math major or certified in math,” said Ride. “And in the physical sciences, it’s even worse.” As a result, teachers 6
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Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future We are now holding schools accountable for the achievement of every single child beginning in elementary school, . . . which is the only way we will close and attend to the untenable achievement gap that we have in our country. —MARGARET SPELLINGS, Secretary of the Depart- ment of Education We have to get over the notion that there is a “math gene,” because there isn’t. . . . All chil- dren need to develop conceptual understand- ing of particular topics, become proﬁcient in As a father of 5 kids and a grandfather that mathematics, and be able to use that to of 12, I have never been more worried solve important problems. for our country than I am today. —FRANCIS (SKIP) FENNELL, Professor, McDaniel —FRANK WOLF, U.S. Representative from College Virginia tend to rely heavily on textbooks and avoid the open-ended explorations that are the most effective way to learn science and math. Not surprisingly, many students gradually lose interest — for example, more girls are interested in math at the beginning of middle school than at the beginning of high school. “The longer our kids stay in school, the less they like science and math,” said Ride. The problem of underqualified teachers is especially severe at schools that serve large numbers of minority and low-income students. Research shows that the strongest influ- ence on the performance of students in a class is whether they have a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the subject they teach. Yet schools serving minority and poor stu- dents typically have the least qualified teachers. The America COMPETES Act authorized a program called Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow, which is modeled in part after the UTeach program at the University of Texas. The UTeach program encourages undergraduate students to take courses in sci- ence, mathematics, and engineering while also earning a teaching certificate. According to Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, after four years 82 percent of the pro- gram’s graduates are still teaching, and almost half of those teach in schools where the majority of students receive free or reduced-price lunches. The Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow program also would support current teach- ers to return to college to receive a science or mathematics degree. And the America COMPETES Act includes a provision supported by Representative Rubén Hinojosa of 7
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RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM TWO YEARS LATER Texas that would create partnerships between high-need school districts and colleges, universities, and private sector companies to improve high school laboratories. The private sector is also supporting teacher recruitment and training programs. NMSI, with support from ExxonMobil, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has made grants to 13 universities — from 52 that applied — for programs similar to UTeach. The ultimate goal, said NMSI CEO Tom Luce, is “to make sure that these programs are available in all 50 states.” In addition, the America COMPETES Act authorizes the Math Now program that has been proposed by the administration but not yet funded. The program would use the recent report of the National Mathematics Panel to strengthen math education in ele- mentary and middle schools so that students enter high school ready to take challenging math coursework. Teacher training would be an essential part of this program, because “teachers matter a lot,” according to Professor Francis (Skip) Fennell of McDaniel College. “We need people who know the subject and love the subject delivering it every day as early as the first grade or even earlier.” Preparation for College Students who take high-level courses in high school are much more likely to do well in college. According to Spellings, “A high school student who passes an Advanced Placement exam is three times more likely to earn a college degree than those who do not. If a student is African American, just taking and passing AP exams makes it four times more likely that that child will receive a college degree.” Individual schools, school districts, and states have been encourag- ing larger numbers of students to take AP courses so that they are bet- ter prepared for college-level work. For example, the O’Donnell Foundation has supported a program that provides teachers with train- ing to deliver AP courses in the Dallas public schools, and the program has been so successful, according to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, that it has received federal funding as well. The administration has proposed that such programs be expanded, and the America Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison COMPETES Act authorized such an expansion. Adequate appropriations now need to be 8
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Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future It takes years or decades to build the capability to have a society that de- pends on science and technology. You need to generate the scientists and engineers, starting in elementary school Schools with a high proportion of minority and middle school. You have to fund students have the least qualiﬁed teachers the fundamental research that those and the fewest tools to work with. That has scientists do. You have to generate the to change. It has to change not because engineers who can turn those scientiﬁc we would like it to change, and not even breakthroughs into products and ser- because we want equal rights. It has to vices. And then you have to have the change because those children are the fu- right environment for innovation. ture of this country and its survival. . . . This —SALLY RIDE, Chief Executive Ofﬁcer of Sally is our war for today — right here on our Ride Science shores — to educate our young people. —EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, U.S. Representative from Texas secured for the expansion, since “this is where the rubber is going to hit the road,” Hutchison said. In addition, NMSI is working to replicate programs like the one in Dallas in other districts and states. For example, when NMSI issued a request for pro- posals to promote AP classes and train AP teachers, 28 states applied, and NMSI was able to fund 7 grants. “That means there are 21 states already on a waiting list that Congress can help us fund,” said Tom Luce. Support for Basic Research Rising Above the Gathering Storm called for the federal government to increase its investment in long-term basic research by 10 percent each year over the next seven years. The administration responded to this recommendation in its American Competitiveness Initiative, which established a trajectory to double the collective bud- gets of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science over ten years. In turn, the America COMPETES Act authorized funding that would achieve this doubling in seven years. However, the FY 2008 appropriations bills severely disappointed the expectations of research supporters. According to Augustine, the 2008 appropriations process experi- 9
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RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM TWO YEARS LATER enced a “systems failure,” with most federal research and development (R&D) programs receiving substantially less than in the President’s budget request and in Congressional authorizations. “Regrettably,” said NSF director Arden Bement, “the funding has failed to appear. . . . As often happens in politics, the short term squeezed out the long term.” The consequences for some federal agencies and research performers have been severe. According to Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, despite authorization bills backed by both parties, the appropriations for basic research were much less. “In constant dollars (adjusted for inflation), the budgets of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science from 2006 through 2008 were almost flat. For fiscal 2008, this meant that essentially no new proposals for solar energy research were funded by the DOE Office of Science, and many programs received cutbacks.” The National Science Foundation was able to support 1,000 fewer new research grants in 2008 and 230 fewer graduate research fel- lows, with more than 3,000 faculty research- ers, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and undergraduates affected. Many new high-impact centers in areas such as phys- ics, materials science, and chemical innova- tion also could not be funded. “The nation’s From left to right, colleges and universities have been particularly hard hit,” noted Bement. “The four-year Charles Vest, period from 2004 through 2007 may represent the first continuous decline in federal Arden Bement, investment and basic R&D in colleges and universities in the past 25 years.” and Rep. Rush Holt This basic research is an essential underpinning of future economic prosperity, many speakers at the meeting pointed out. Many 20th-century technologies, such as the tran- sistor and biotechnology, sprang directly from basic research. These technologies are often transformative, noted Chu, in that they become the foundations of multiple indus- tries and great wealth. The funding needed to boost basic research is not a large amount in the context of the federal budget. As University of Maryland President C.D. Mote, Jr. observed, the federal government recently put together a multi-billion-dollar package to shore up the mortgage industry. “Ironically, that amount of money would have funded the entire 10
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Accelerating Progress Toward a Brighter Economic Future Other countries are dedicating themselves and devoting resources to get their share of the high-technology pie — and there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s good. But we have to be able to compete and maintain our own share of that pie, because that is where the high-wage jobs lie and where the standard of living of our country will be set. —G. WAYNE CLOUGH, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and former President of the Georgia Institute of Technology Investments in research and edu- Just as DARPA gave us the The research areas that will trans- cation are where the future battle Internet, ARPA-E can give us al- form the landscape and give us for international economic leader- ternative, clean, renewable fuels totally new choices and totally ship will be fought, and where the that can make America energy- new technologies have always United States is drifting. While the independent and can make us a historically been basic research. . . . storm continues to gather, we are much stronger nation. Continued support of that research still at sea. should be a very high priority. —BART GORDON, U.S. Representative from —ARDEN BEMENT, Director of the —STEVEN CHU, Director of Tennessee National Science Foundation Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Productivity growth depends on two things: a well-trained work force, and new ideas. Each of those requires investment. I would argue that we are under-investing in research and development in every sector of our economy, drastically under-investing. . . . It is a societal problem. It is not just a congressional problem or an administration problem. —RUSH HOLT, U.S. Representative from New Jersey Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, every piece of it, for a decade. So it’s not a mat- ter of money. It’s a matter of will.” The Gathering Storm report also called on the federal government to provide research grants to early-career researchers, support research instrumentation and facilities, allo- cate funding to high-risk, high-payoff research, institute awards to stimulate scientific and engineering advances, and create an Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to address environmental, energy, and security issues. The America COMPETES Act calls for support of high-risk research and authorized ARPA-E, but appropriations have not yet been made to enable these actions. 11