State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex has just returned from meeting with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other officials concerning a new national initiative designed to push math and science education to a higher level. A new report issued by the Carnegie Corporation’s Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education contains recommendations for organizations ranging from labor and business to federal and state government, as well as public schools, colleges and universities.
Rex says it’s increasingly true that the US must better educate its citizens if it wants to be one of the economic juggernauts of the 21st century. “And while we have issues in the country and in this state dealing with equity, the core of reform needs to focus in on math and science. That’s what will drive the discoveries that will make economies viable and nations competitive.”
Key recommendations from the Carnegie Report include establishing common standards in math and science that are fewer and higher; improving teaching and school management; and redesigning schools and school systems to deliver equitable learning more effectively. It also launches a national campaign to increase public awareness about the links between effective math and science learning and the job market, which will focus on improving outcomes from historically under performing groups.
Rex says the US has been slipping behind. “And one time the US led the nations of the world. Now we’re somewhere in the middle of the pack. We really plateaued out. What’s causing that are a lot of factors. One of them is that for decades, we couldn’t attract enough students into the math and science teaching profession.”
Rex says the US has previously accepted as fact that certain racial, economic and gender groups would not do as well in math and science. The report notes that all students, no matter where they live or what educational path or career they pursue, should have science, technology, engineering and math knowledge upon high school graduation.
Rex says the change will require a lot of innovative ideas. “For example, how are we going to attract the quanity and quality of teachers we need to raise incentives, and mid-career routes, that people in math and science can use to get into the classroom more easily. A lot of things at the same time.”
Rex, a democrat, says US Secretary of education Duncan pointed out that the Obama Administration has been focused on education like a laser, on a daily basis, even in the middle of a severe recession and two wars. Rex says he(Rex) has been in education for a long time and he knows this is a unique opportunity to make a difference. A nationwide poll from the Commission on Mathematics and Science Education shows that both students and parents place a higher priority on math and science than all subjects except English. But the survey also showed that students and parents don’t think math or science grades count as much unless the student intends to pursue a career in directly-related fields.