Papers and Presentations, Mathematics and Science Initiative
Let's fast forward a bit to June, 2013only ten years from now. Will there be enough students graduating then from our colleges and universitiesstudents now in our middle schoolsto keep our high technology sector performing at a world-class level? Will Intel, for example, be able to hire all the talented chip designers we will need to stay on the leading edge of technology? Will there be enough home-grown talent to develop the next generation of environmentally friendly cars? To conquer tomorrow's AIDS-like plague? Not if many current trends continue.
Even more important, will we be able to staff our K-12 schools with the highly qualified teachers we must have to teach our children the mathematics and science they will need to be successful in the future? Not if current trends continue.
Our failures in these areas constitute an emergency for this countryand present a real challenge to our continued growth and prosperity. This is why I decided to give my time to serve on the Glenn Commission. This is why many of you are here today. It is why I am here today.
We must act. We must not wait for the results of more planning, more meetings, more commissions to take action. Certainly we don't know everything that we might eventually want to know. But we must not let the lack of complete knowledge dissuade us from acting at all. We must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Because every day we do is another day we are failing the children in our schools.
So why do we care? Because education is a long-term investment for usjust like our Research & Development program. Mathematics is the language of our business, the language of innovation and inventionthe language of the modern, global economy. And, the language of anyone who wants to participate fully in this great democracy.
Our workforce is competing globally, and so must our schools. But there is much evidence that we are not performing as well as we must to retain our global leadership. You are all familiar with the data so I don't need to recite the statistics. But the data lead us to several inescapable conclusions:
- Our student achievement in mathematics and science is well below the level attained in many other countries.
- The problems of the current system are significantly worse in undeserved communities, producing a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and the poor. What chance do these children have to fully participate in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century?
- And the data tells us that just as the demand for skilled people is going up, the supply is drying up. In many prestigious US universities over half of those graduating with advanced degrees in technical disciplines are not US citizens
Talented students flock to our universities from all over the world. And increasingly they want to take their skills homeTaiwanese engineers want to live and work in Taiwan; Indian engineers want to return to India. The jobs are following them. If the world's best engineers are in India, that's where our companies will go. This is not a threat; it is a reality.
And it is a real problem for this country. We have no right to expect that the rest of the world will continue to provide the technically skilled people we are failing to prepare here at home. The only choice we have is to educate a homegrown workforce that can meet our needsthat can be the best in the world at what they do.
The basic architecture of No Child Left Behind is a strong blueprint for change. Yes we must have world-class standards and build high-quality curricula to reach those standards for all students. We must have a measurement system and hold people accountable for results for all students. We must have quality teachers for all students.
But if our goal is to radically improve student performance then things have to change, and change sooner rather than later. Here are four high priorities:
- We must learn from what's already working.
- We must attract and retain more and more qualified math and science teachers into our schools, especially our high-poverty schools.
- We must maintain our focus on measurement and assessmentit is the only way we will know if we are moving forward or backward.
- And we must insist on real accountability, not as a punitive measure but as a means towards continuous improvement.
LEARN FROM WHAT'S WORKING
The third goal of the Department's agenda for this Summit focuses on research to help us hone in on what improves student learning in mathematics and science. We couldn't agree more. Research must look at what is working and determine how those positive results can be replicated more broadly.
We do not need to start with a blank page. There are many positive examples we can learn from. Perhaps what I am urging is a change in attitude. We do not have the luxury of adopting the latest fad; we cannot afford to change our direction with each new superintendent or new principal.
The research being commissioned as a part of this new initiative needs to be focused on better understanding how yesterday's successes were achievedand how those can be scaled up to serve the national needs. At the very least this approach could give us some short-term improvement as the longer-range research agenda is craftedand it could give us substantially more. Educators must share best practices. Let's put some serious thinking into how we can encourage and reward that sharingand even some daring -- from district to district, and state to state.
- Why are some scores on the NAEP improving? What can we learn from states that outperformed the national scores on the NAEP?
- What can we learn from states that have shown steady improvement on their state assessments? What are they doing right? How can we replicate that for students in other areas of the country?
I realize that local control is a strong characteristic of educational decision-making. But it is time, given the seriousness of the challenge, to look at what our local successes can teach us about meeting the national challenge we face.
What can we learn, for example, from the strong performance of the Naperville School District and the First in the World Consortium in Illinois on the TIMSS-R Study? Yes these are more affluent districts, but can't we learn something valuable from what they have done with professional development and their focus on goals? Aren't those key learnings relevant for other schools in other states?
MORE AND MORE QUALIFIED TEACHERS
We must increase funding for teacher professional development in science and mathematics. This is a critical ingredient, perhaps the critical ingredient, to our success. Teachers must be our first priority. The equation is simple: higher teacher performance = higher student performance.
How do we attract -and RETAIN -- more and more qualified teachersespecially in our high need areas? Incentives work in business, and they can work for schools.
- We must implement loan forgiveness programs for mathematics and science teachers. We were very pleased to see that in the President's fiscal year 2004 budget included a significant increase in student loan forgiveness amounts for mathematics and science [note: also special education] teachers who work in schools serving high-poverty populations.
- Districts should offer variable pay for teachers who have strong content and classroom skills in teaching mathematics and science. I know this is heresy to many teachers, but with all due respect we can no longer afford that mindset. The law of supply and demand does not stop at the schoolhouse door.
- We must reward teachers based upon measurable and quantitative improvements in mathematics and science scores. How long a teacher has been in the classroom is not meaningless, but student performance must be the yardstick by which we measure high-quality teaching.
Too often the teacher shortage is addressed by assigning teachers with little or no relevant content knowledge to teach mathematics and science classes. Research done just this year indicates that almost one-third of mathematics teacherssome 38% in high poverty schoolsare lacking even a minor in mathematics.
This is simply unacceptable. No Child Left Behind requires that by 2006 all teachers in core subjects must be highly qualified. By then, all teachers must pass a state test or a highly objective, uniform state evaluation to determine proficiency. This is a must!
We must have rigorous certification processes for "out-of-field" teachers and solid preparation programs for pre-service teachers. These programs must address the content teachers need to address in their classrooms, and must be tied to state and district standards. A report released just a week or so ago from the Independent Education Commission of the States showed that only 8 states are close to having "highly qualified" teachers in every classroom. The states must be held accountable; they must not be allowed to water down the intent of this provision -- "highly qualified" must mean just that! Hopefully the process begun at this Summit will provide states with good ideas of how they can meet that goal.
ASSESSMENT & ACCOUNTABILITY
How will we know if we are succeeding if we have no consistent measurements? There are those who call testing deceptive or demoralizing or discriminatory. And bad tests that are poorly administered can be all of those things. But the answer is not to give up on assessing student achievement. The answer is to make sure that the tests are timely, useful, and comparable.
We should make broad use of our best comparative toolthe National Assessment of Educational Progressto allow states to confirm the results they get on their own tests against a consistent, rigorous standard.
Accountability means that we reward the schools that are succeedingand highlight those positive examples so that others can learn from what they are doing right. But it also means that there must be consequences for continued underachievement -- not aimed at punitive treatment but at setting up systems that will help these schools improve their performance against well-defined goals and reasonable timelines.
No Child Left Behind provides strong support for improvement of readingand rightly so. We must give mathematics and science the same priority. There is compelling and convincing data that suggests we have special and very critical needs in these two disciplines. No Child Left Behind requires assessment in mathematics and shortly in science, just as it does in reading. But comparable investment is also needed if we are going to get the comparable desired results. Yes we are experiencing hard times in the economy but we simply cannot afford the luxury of doing little or nothing.
I believe that the convening of this Summit signals the Administration's commitment to mathematicsand I hope that as a result we will see more targeted support for mathematics. This cannot be achieved through NSF grants alone. As valuable as those grants are, they are limited in their reach due to the competitive nature of the process. They were never intended to reach every teacher of mathematics nationwide.
I know that this is all easier to say than to do. We are trying to change a complex environment; there are various constituencies involved and "turfs" in contention. But how long can we let that political reality stop us from doing what must be done?
Industry is ready and willing to helpas long we don't approach this as "business as usual." We must bring a sense of urgency to this, because every day we wait is a day too long for the kids in our schools, who really deserve better.
We can all argue about the what-ifs and why-can'ts, but basically "Failure is not an option." That's the way we need to look at the challenges we face. We need to prepare a new generation of Americans for the 21st century. And we need to get started right now. For all of us, "Failure is not an option."