BOX 3-2

The Push to Improve K–12 Science and Mathematics Education

In 1990, the Department of Education National Education Goals Panel released a report detailing necessary improvements in U.S. education. In that report, science and mathematics were the only subjects addressed specifically. Goal 5 was, “By the year 2000, United States students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement” (DOEd, 1989). Eleven years later, when the department published a definitive study of science and mathematics teaching in the United States, the conclusion was that little progress had been made toward reaching that goal (DOEd, 2000).

In the past few years, many studies, such as Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, have argued that improving science and mathematics education will require substantial reform (NAS et al., 2007). Many of these reports include data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and two ongoing international comparative assessments, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to support the contention that U.S. K–12 students, particularly secondary students, simply do not measure up. Although TIMSS and PISA data are often used as indicators, some have argued that most interpretations of these data overstate the U.S. achievement problem, in part because they do not account for differences in the educational systems of the participating countries (Lowell and Salzman, 2007).

In 2007, the Department of Education published a review of all federally funded programs with a math or science education focus, looking at their effectiveness and at ways to integrate and coordinate them. The report focused on 115 programs that it considered to have the best evaluations and concluded that there was very little hard evidence as to which programs were effective and which were not (DOEd, 2007).

mathematics achievement tests1 (Hotaling et al., 2007). Statistically significant gains in science and mathematics scores have also been reported by the


In this study, the results were not disaggregated, and no measure of variance was provided. Thus we cannot know if the gains were uniform or if some subgroups were more or less impacted.

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