Committee on Science and Technology
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Member Speeches :: December 7, 2005

Prepared Remarks by the Hon. Bart Gordon for the National Science Board Roundtable on Science Education

I appreciate having this opportunity to comment on the National Science Board’s proposal to convene a Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Mathematics and Technology.  I have two basic points I would like to make this morning.

First, I do not believe there is a need to create another commission to take a broad look at how to improve science education in the nation.  As we all are aware, there have been several such commissions and national panels of experts that have done this over the past twenty years or so.  The findings of these panels have been fairly consistent.

So, I don’t believe the problem is to identify what needs to be done, but rather we must make a serious national commitment to provide the resources and create programs that will address the critical needs that have already been identified.

Recently at the request of Congress, a committee organized by the National Academies complex and chaired by Norm Augustine looked at what steps are necessary to ensure that this nation remains competitive internationally.  The highest priority recommendation of this committee is to improve K-12 science and math education.

The Augustine report’s recommendations on education were focused mainly on improving the education of new science and math teachers, increasing the numbers of new teachers, and strengthening the subject area knowledge and teaching skills of current teachers.

The Augustine report goes beyond generic recommendations and includes specific policy action items, along with the associated costs.

The report’s education recommendations are not surprising because almost all assessments of the problems with science and math education start with the shortcomings of the teachers in these subjects.  The foundation for making lasting improvements in science and math education is teachers with deep knowledge of their subject matter and effective teaching skills.

I agree with the recommendations of the Augustine report and believe the highest priority action we could take at this time would be to implement those recommendations.  Consequently, I introduced legislation yesterday to do just that.  These are concrete steps that will have an almost immediate impact on the quality of science and math instruction in our schools.

I introduced this legislation to serve as a call for action.  I don’t pretend it is perfect and am open to suggestions for ways to make it better.  I would hope the National Science Board will review the bill and provide me with your thoughts and recommendations.  And, of course, I hope the Board will support this effort to implement the Augustine report’s recommendations.

The second point I would like to make is that the new education commission the Board is contemplating should narrowly focus its work on what the National Science Foundation (NSF) is doing, and could do, to improve K-16 science and math education. This would be timely because we have seen erosion in the Administration’s support for educational activities at the Foundation over the past couple of years.

I would suggest that the commission should assess whether NSF is setting the right priorities in its education activities; whether it is supporting effective programs; and whether it has sufficient resources devoted to these programs so that reasonable progress can be made in the overall goal of improving K-16 education.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to provide my thoughts on the Board’s plan for assessing science education.

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Bart Gordon, Chairman


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