NSTA Legislative Update
August 21, 2006

Senator Clinton Introduces Legislation to Develop National Voluntary Expectations for K-12 Science and Math Education

In early August Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) introduced the Math and Science Consistency Act (S. 3790). The legislation calls for the Department of Education to convene a national panel that would produce voluntary national expectations for K-12 mathematics and science education, accompanied by a sample curriculum and assessment items for each expectation.

The panel would work to first identify the core ideas in mathematics and science common to all states then develop a minimum comprehensive set of voluntary national expectations based on these core ideas. These voluntary national expectations would be taken or adapted from effective state mathematics and science standards or from the National Science Education Standards and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.

The panel would also oversee development of a model curriculum for mathematics and science based on the voluntary national expectations, taken or adapted from effective mathematics and science teaching materials. Sample assessment questions would also be developed.

NSTA is included in the legislative language as a member of the panel that would develop the voluntary national expectations. The bill was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. To read the entire bill, go to http://www.govtrack.us/data/us/bills.text/109/s/s3790.pdf.

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Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Holds First Meeting

On August 3, the National Science Board’s Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics held their first meeting at National Science Foundation (NSF) headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

At the August meeting Commission members discussed their charge and developed a work plan. Members were also briefed on current NSF education programs, the interagency Academic Competitiveness Council, and heard from Norm Augustine, chair of the commission that developed the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

Specific topics that the Commission will address in their prek-16 STEM education action plan, which is scheduled for release next summer, will include the availability of competent teachers; adequacy and currency of curricula, materials, and facilities; promotion, graduation, and higher education requirements; engagement of full range of potential talents; transition points in education career; investment in educational research; strategies that can be employed nationwide; and general and pre-professional training.

Commission co-chairs are Leon Lederman, Resident Scholar with the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and Shirley Malcom, Head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Joanne Vasquez, a current National Science Board member and former NSTA president, is the Commission vice chair.

As reported in earlier NSTA Legislative Updates, the Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics was formed after a series of nationwide hearings convened by the National Science Board (NSB), the oversight body for the NSF. The hearings resulted from a Congressional request for a national commission to focus on K-12 science and math education; speakers at the hearings discussed the viability of a commission, and shared ideas the commission should consider. NSTA Executive Director Gerry Wheeler addressed the NSB hearing on December 7, 2005.

To read more about the Commission, visit http://www.nsta.org/nstaexpress/commission.pdf; to view the entire list of Commission members, visit http://www.nsta.org/nstaexpress/members.pdf.

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Center on Education Policy Issues Report on NCLB Title I

A report from the independent, nonpartisan Center on Education Policy has some sobering news about the No Child Left Behind Title I, Part A funding for states and school districts. Title I is the largest federal program assisting elementary and secondary schools, and contains the majority of the accountability provisions under the NCLB.

The key findings from the report are:

To view the full report, visit the center's web site at http://www.cep-dc.org/pubs/titleIFundsGainingLosing.

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National Science Foundation Issues RFP for New Discovery Research K-12 Programs

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has sent out a Request for Proposals for programs under the Discovery Research K-12 (DR-K12) initiative. Earlier this year NSF consolidated and realigned three programs under the Division of Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education to form DR-K12; these programs include the Teacher Professional Continuum, Instructional Materials Development, and the Centers for Learning and Teaching.

Discovery Research K-12 funds research, development, and evaluation activities to improve K-12 learning and teaching. The NSF is seeking activities to fund in applied research; development of resources and tools that support the assessment of students and teachers and the learning and instruction of K-12 students and teachers; and capacity building that supports STEM systems research and STEM education research scholars. Conferences related to the mission of the program will also be supported.

For more information, go to http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2006/nsf06593/nsf06593.txt.

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Public Education Network Issue Brief Explores What Local Education Groups Are Doing to Improve Science and Math Education

Politicians, academics, and business and community members all seem to be raising concerns that America is not as globally competitive as it once was. This is due, in part, to the fact that public schools in America are not producing high school graduates with the math, science, and technical skills to succeed in higher education or be employed in a knowledge-based, global marketplace. What can local education funds (LEFs) do for math and science reform? A number of LEFs have been working to improve math and science instruction in public schools and have approached the problem from various angles: (1) Building coalitions of educators, businesses, and community members to pool energy and expertise; (2) Establishing teacher networks so teachers learn from and support one another; (3) Training subject-matter specialists to build the capacity and knowledge of teachers in a school, and (4) Redirecting and supporting math and science curriculum, which will more effectively build students’ abilities and interests. To read a new issue brief from Public Education Network, which outlines effective policy interventions leveraged by LEFs, visit
http://news.publiceducation.org/t/5780/99536/170/0.

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