Chairman Gordon Applauds White House Announcement of Public-Private Partnerships to Improve Science, Math Education


(Washington, DC) - Today, House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) is attending an event at the White House celebrating the importance of teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) offered the following statement:

"I applaud the White House's announcement today of a $250 million public-private effort to improve STEM education.

The U.S. needs not only to keep producing the world's best scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, but, for the sake of our national economic competitiveness, we need every student to have a strong foundation in the STEM fields. About half of the growth in our GDP since World War II came from developing and adopting new technologies. If we are to continue on that path, our students, as individuals, will need a solid understanding of the STEM fields for the highly-technical, high-paying jobs of the future, and we as a nation will need an educated workforce to attract business and compete globally.

The importance of STEM education to our national competitiveness was highlighted in the 2005 National Academies' Rising Above the Gathering Storm. We've seen in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and other surveys that our students, collectively, are not performing up to their potential, and they are falling behind their global counterparts. Worse, the longer they are in our school system, the further behind they fall.

Education research has consistently shown that the success of students is highly dependent upon the quality and effectiveness of their teachers. In fact, the first and highest priority recommendation of the Gathering Storm report was to increase America's talent pool by vastly increasing the number of K-12 teachers highly qualified to teach STEM. Across the country, too many of our middle and high school math and science teachers are teaching out of field, more often than not lacking a major, minor, or even certification in the field they teach. In order to improve student performance in the STEM fields we must put--and keep--teachers in the classroom that have a solid base of knowledge in their field. These teachers are better equipped to answer students' questions, to help the students see the real-world application of what they are learning, and to spark their students' interest in the subject.

The America COMPETES Act, which was enacted in 2007, laid a foundation to address that need by creating scholarships that aim to recruit new STEM teachers and improve the content knowledge of current STEM teachers. In COMPETES, we expanded the Noyce teacher scholarship program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Students who enroll in the Noyce program earn degrees in a STEM field, while learning content-oriented pedagogy and working toward teacher certification. In COMPETES we also created a new NSF Teaching Fellowships and Master Teaching Fellowships programs as part of the Noyce program, to help professionals in the STEM fields and existing STEM teachers enroll in a master's degree program to obtain content knowledge (for existing teachers) or teacher certification (for STEM professionals) and help prepare them to serve as master teachers. In return for the scholarship, the recipients make a commitment to teach in a high-need school for a minimum of four years.

The public-private partnerships that will be announced today are the logical next step. I've always been a strong proponent of public-private partnerships, and I believe they have an important role to play in efforts to improve STEM education. The federal government can't afford to pick up the whole tab. The private sector has skin in the game as well, because they depend on an educated workforce.

There is much more work to be done, though. Improving STEM education has been a priority for this Committee for as long as I can remember. In the past three years alone, we held nine hearings on K-12 STEM education. In June, the House passed H.R. 1709, The STEM Education Coordination Act, which will coordinate STEM education activities done across the federal government. The federal government can play an important role in STEM education at all levels because of the richness of the science and technology resources at our research agencies. The Administration has said that we're spending $700 million a year in primary and secondary STEM education through the federal agencies. Based on our own efforts to survey the agencies, we believe the total number is probably higher than that, because many important education activities are subsumed under research programs and budgets. Clearly, we need a comprehensive inventory of what is being spent where in order to ensure that we're using our limited resources wisely.

Continuing to improve STEM education will be a key component of the COMPETES reauthorization, which the Committee will be working towards this year."

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