"Teaching is the most important human activity, because
so many things essential for survival need to be learned from others."
- John Marburger, Presidential Science Advisor
John Marburger, the President's Science Advisor and Director of the
Office of Science and Technology Policy, spoke about the teaching of
science at the National Science Teachers Association Convention in March.
He discussed his own science teaching experiences, compared teaching
to his previous role as Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory,
and answered a Q&A from science teachers, in which he addressed
the Administration's budget request for programs to improve math and
science teaching. Selected portions of his remarks are quoted below:
"In safety management, you decide what you want to do,
plan the work, identify the hazards, authorize the work after everyone
agrees on the safest way to do it, and then you check to see if the
way the work actually got done was what you expected. If it was not,
then you change how you do it the next time so you get better each
time you do it. The management experts call this a 'continuous cycle
of improvement.' There's a slogan that goes with it: Plan, Do, Check,
"Sound familiar? It sounded to me like the way we do
science: Hypothesize, conceive and plan an experiment, perform the
experiment, check to see if the result matches expectations, if not
change the hypothesis and start over. It works! It works for science,
and it works for management, and it ought to work for teaching too.
But sometimes the steps are difficult to perform. In teaching, they
are often very difficult. But we have to do them.
"President Bush cares passionately about teaching and
learning, and he is also a businessman and a successful executive.
That's why he established the President's Management Agenda to encourage
his agencies to adopt good management principles as they conduct the
government's - that is, the people's - business. I agree with the
concept that every productive activity can be managed in the same
general way, and the core elements of that way are summarized in 'Plan,
Do, Check, Act.'"
"Any of us could give a lecture, or write a book, about
each one of these challenges, but I would like to conclude with a
word about the fourth step in the cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act. Action
has always been the most difficult, but it is also the most important.
It is the step that closes the loop; The step that justifies the enormous
investments required for the other three. All four steps are linked
together. What good is assessment if we do not use the data it produces
to make things better? What good is teaching if we do not take pains
to discover if people are learning? What good does it do to invest
in the accumulation of knowledge if we do not pass it on?
"In our huge system of education, action requires a
culture change vastly greater than anything I was asked to do at Brookhaven.
But the ingredients are the same. One of those ingredients is leadership.
I joined President Bush's team because I was impressed with his willingness
to provide leadership in the big issues confronting our society. And
his leadership in the improvement of education is matched only by
his leadership and determination to win the war against terrorism.
He has established a very high level of expectation for us, and it
is up to us to take advantage of the conditions he is creating to
effect change in this most difficult and complicated system of education."
Marburger also responded to a series of questions submitted by NSTA
members. Below are portions of his responses addressing federal programs
for math and science education:
"The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to have
a highly- qualified teacher in every public school classroom by the
end of the 2005-2006 school year.... While reaching this goal will
require reform of pre-service training, which is usually conducted
in colleges of Education across the country, it will also require
more effective in-service training and professional development for
teachers in the classroom already. To help states meet this goal,
states, districts and schools will be eligible to receive in 2002
about $3 billion for teacher training, recruiting and hiring. This
represents an increase of more than 30 percent over the 2001 levels
of funding. President Bush has proposed to sustain this level of funding
in his 2003 budget. Although the categorical Eisenhower program has
been eliminated, these funds continue to exist in the state teacher
training grants, and may result in the expansion of teacher training
and professional development opportunities available to math and science
"In his Education Blueprint, No Child Left Behind, the
President proposed a new type of Math and Science Partnership (MSP)
that brings together scientists and mathematicians from institutions
of higher education with teachers and administrators from our primary
and secondary schools to address what needs to be done to revise and
strengthen how these subjects are currently taught in our schools....
It builds on the nation's dedication to educational reform through
support of partnerships that unite the efforts of local schools districts
with science, mathematics, engineering and education faculties of
colleges and universities.... In 2002 the National Science Foundation
(NSF) received $160 million and the Department of Education (ED) $12.5
million to begin the MSP program. In 2003 the President requests an
additional $40 million for this program for NSF ($200 million total)
while keeping the ED request at $12.5 million."
Marburger also highlighted other "exciting new or expanded"
NSF education programs, including a new Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program, a new Robert Noyce Scholarship
Program, and requested increases for the Graduate Teaching Fellowships
in K-12 Education, Graduate Research fellows, and Integrated Graduate
Education and Research Traineeship programs.
The full text of Marburger's remarks at the March 27 NSTA Convention
can be found at http://www.ostp.gov/html/02_04_24.html
and the Q&A at http://www.ostp.gov/html/02_04_24_2.html.
A number of Members of Congress are working to increase the FY 2003
funding for the Education Department Math and Science Partnerships substantially
above the FY 2002 level of $12.5 million. A future FYI will address
Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics