This year, many believe that Congress will begin work to reauthorize (rewrite) the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the federal education law commonly known as No Child Left Behind.
What does this mean for science education and educators? Whether you hate or love it, policymakers are crafting a new ESEA law that will continue to have an impact on the science classroom.
So, the real question educators need to ask themselves is how they can influence the legislation. Politics is all about what you have that you don’t want to lose and what you don’t have but would like to gain. Fortunately, citizens who are knowledgeable about an issue, passionate about a cause, and know when and how to interact with their members of Congress can be very effective. Real change can and will come to STEM education policy when individuals within the STEM education community realize the influence they can bring to the policy decisions that are being made.
No one is better suited for carrying the message about quality science education to elected representatives than science teachers. There are many opportunities for NSTA members to educate federal policymakers about the role of science and science education in public policy. They can also advance specific recommendations on issues affecting teachers and pathways to teaching.
Your Voice Matters
NSTA members can provide members of Congress with real-life classroom scenarios and student success stories. You can explain the impact a specific decision may have on the lawmaker’s state or district. Members of Congress need this information when they make their decisions; a few intelligent and informed e-mails from constituents can tip the balance on an issue.
Now is the time to seek out opportunities to interact with federal legislators, both in Washington, DC, and in your home state or district. Consider attending “fly-in lobby days,” “meet and greets,” and/or legislative briefings that provide you with the chance to interact with legislators. (NSTA and six other STEM organizations are sponsoring a July 2011 K–12 STEM Policy Conference, and more information can be found at http://stemedconference.eventbrite.com.)
NSTA and the STEM Education Coalition can help you learn about the existing policy, legislation, and funding resources that are important to science and science education. We provide key advice about the political process, help you to identify the key issues that you want to address, and help you to develop a succinct message that expresses what you want to convey. (See Key STEM Issues, Reauthorization of ESEA)
Advocating for an issue is essential to getting laws written in a way that reflects the true needs of science teachers. By cultivating relationships with your elected officials, you are establishing yourself as an authority on a specific issue. Our elected leaders want the best information to do their jobs, and in many cases they will turn to the individuals who have the knowledge they need to assist in the development of policy. Become one of those individuals. Watch for more information from NSTA and the STEM Education Coalition in the coming months and work with us to help craft a federal education law that will best meet the needs of science education.
Key STEM Issues, Reauthorization of ESEA
These are the issues the NSTA and the STEM Education Coalition will be working to achieve when Congress begins work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act:
- Inclusion of student performance in science alongside math and reading as a required element of the accountability system.
- Federal support for ongoing collaborative state efforts to implement “common core” or other high-quality standards in math and science.
- Robust dedicated support for effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) educator professional development and preparation and educational innovation activities under Title II.
- Integration of STEM-focused curriculum, projects, and programs as priority investments for ESEA programs that support classroom teaching and learning as well as out of school experiences such as afterschool and summer programs.
- Targeted efforts to promote STEM-subject master teachers and teacher specialists.
- Competitive grant programs to promote more aggressive state adoption and expansion of high-quality, rigorous, STEM programs, so long as such efforts do not compromise existing formula-funding streams that also support high-quality STEM activities.