2011 Legislative Platform
Elementary and Secondary Education Act
In its September 2010 report to the President Obama, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued several recommendations that would better prepare America’s K–12 students in STEM subjects and outlined many of the national goals and necessary strategies for successful STEM education. Many of the ideas listed below stem from the PCAST report.
NSTA calls on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in this session and to consider these suggestions regarding ESEA law that would strengthen STEM education.
- Support state implementation of Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards.
- Include science in the new ESEA accountability system.
- Ensure more funding is targeted to STEM teacher training.
Change the Math and Science Partnership Program to State Grants to Implement Common Core Standards in Mathematics and Next Generation Standards for K–12 Science
NSTA believes that common standards in science and mathematics will encourage a seamless system of K–12 STEM education comparable to the STEM systems of high-performing international countries. Common standards will ensure that all students—no matter what school students attend—master the skills and develop the knowledge needed to participate in the global economy.
Over the past few years the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have developed Common Core State Standards for grades K–12 in mathematics. To date 40 states and the District of Columbia have formally adopted common core standards in mathematics.
The voluntary Next Generation Standards for K–12 Science Education, scheduled for release in summer 2012, are based on a framework developed by an expert panel of National Research Council scientists and educators and guided with input from state leaders. Both the Common Core State Standards for grades K–12 in Mathematics and the Next Generation Standards for K–12 Science Education will set clear, realistic expectations for learning that are consistent from state to state to ensure high school graduates are prepared for college and the workforce.
States that adopt the Common Core State Standards for grades K–12 in Mathematics, and, next year, the Next Generation Standards in K–12 Science Education must also
- work to make significant changes to align the new standards to state assessments;
- provide professional development for teachers and administrators to use the standards;
- use evaluation systems to hold educators accountable for implementation of the standards;
- develop new curriculum or instructional practices aligned with the common standards; and
- align teacher preparation programs to new standards.
In this current economic climate, many states and districts will be greatly challenged to fund few, if any, of these initiatives. NSTA believes the current Math and Science Partnership (ESEA Title II Part B) program should be retooled so that funding goes directly to the states via formula grant to fund state and district initiatives to implement both Common Core State Standards for Grades K– 12 in Mathematics and Next Generation Standards in K–12 Science Education. States that choose not to adopt these common standards could elect to maintain the Math and Science Partnership program.
Include Science in the New ESEA Accountability System
The revised ESEA should contain a provision that would include science scores as a required component of the new ESEA accountability system. Under current ESEA law, student scores in math and reading count toward the school’s Adequate Yearly Progress. All states must now test in science and science scores must be reported, but science scores are not part of the school’s accountability measurements. As a result the Center for Education Progress (CEP) found that almost 44% of districts cut time on elementary science instruction.
Bill language should also encourage states to be flexible when assessing student performance, skill, and knowledge in the sciences by using measures such as written assessments, performance-based testing, project-based work, and portfolio projects.
Designate a Portion of ESEA Title II Part A for STEM Professional Development
Ongoing professional development for STEM teachers is critical. Under current federal education law, states and districts can use Teacher Quality State Grant funds (Title II Part A) for various purposes. The reality is that even though state and local decision makers see the need for intense professional development, they often find themselves pushed to address other priorities, forcing these funds to be spent on efforts other than this congressionally intended investment. An ongoing guarantee of professional development funding is critical to inservice STEM educators who face the challenges of using data to modify classroom techniques, research to inform instruction, and ongoing motivation and creativity to teach every child in every classroom.
The revised federal education law should include language stipulating that districts must spend a designated portion of their Teacher Quality State Grant funds specifically on science and math education teacher professional development.
NSTA also fully supports the Administration’s plans to invest $100 million through the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to recruit and prepare 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years, and recommendations from PCAST report Prepare and Inspire: K–12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math ( STEM) for America’s Future that
- Dedicate resources specifically for the establishment of programs to hire and/or train Master Teachers (also known as science specialists or science coaches) at the K–8 level;
- Provide opportunities for students to participate in out-of-class activities that can provide students with individualized, transforming experiences with STEM subjects;
- Create STEM-focused schools at the middle and secondary levels that would serve as testing grounds for approaches to STEM-focused education in a diverse range of settings;
- Develop leadership development programs for education leaders, including school principals, district leaders and state superintendents, to provide them with information on best practices in achieving excellence in STEM education;
- Create programs that connect middle and secondary students and teachers to STEM college students, scientists, technicians, and engineers; and
- Increase the number of students who take and pass AP and IB courses in STEM subjects.
For more information please contact Jodi Peterson (NSTA) at 703-312-9214, email@example.com.