Well-Trained Teachers Should Be Priority #1 in STEM Education Effort
In a second round of hearings on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education today, House Science Democrats made clear that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is and should continue to be a key player in ensuring our nation’s children are fully prepared in the STEM fields.
"I was frankly disappointed that the STEM education component of the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative totally ignored NSF’s past and potential contributions to STEM education reform," remarked Ranking Member Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN). "Teachers are our students’ best link to learning and NSF plays a primary role in preparing teachers."
Today’s hearing was requested by the Democratic Members of the Committee in response to the March 30th STEM education hearing that reviewed Federal agency programs that support STEM education, but included as witnesses only Federal agency representatives. Were it not for a second hearing, practicing classroom teachers would not have been heard from in this debate.
Democrats contend that the presence of outside witnesses is necessary in order to critique the Administration’s de-emphasis of K-12 STEM education programs at NSF and its neglect of NSF in the K-12 STEM education component of the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative, which was proposed in the FY 2007 budget request.
NSF has supported STEM education programs for 50 years and is generally regarded as the premier Federal agency with STEM education responsibilities. The Administration’s initiative de-emphasizes NSF involvement and provides $380 million in new funding for programs only at the Department of Education and largely for narrowly focused math curriculum development activities.
There is also disagreement regarding priorities between the Administration’s K-12 STEM education proposal and the recommendations of a recent report issued by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm. The widely regarded NAS report prioritizes strengthening undergraduate education for new STEM teachers and increased professional development for existing teachers. The President’s initiative, conversely, places 70% of STEM funding on development of math curriculum for elementary and middle school students.
"I believe the NAS report got it exactly right," added Rep. Gordon. "We need look no further than the outstanding teachers joining us here today to understand that teachers must be the first priority to achieving effective STEM education. Any curriculum is only as good as the teacher teaching it. The NAS report set that goal for us and it must be achieved."
Rep. Gordon and Science Committee Democrats have introduced the only House legislation to date that acts upon the recommendations of the NAS report.
In addition to H.R. 4434, 10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds Science and Math Scholarship Act - which requires science faculty to work with education faculty to develop courses of instruction and teaching procedures specifically tailored to science and math majors, who also agree to pursue teaching credentials - the Gordon bills also include H.R. 4435, Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) Act and H.R. 4596, Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research Act.
Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching - 2005 Winners
In conjunction with today’s hearing, the Committee today honored the newly announced recipients of The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Approximately 100 7-12th grade math and science teachers from all 50 states are in the nation’s capital this week to accept their awards.