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FYI Number 70: June 11, 2002

Societies Honor Physics Olympiad Team, Support Science Education Funding

Last week, 24 of the top physics students from high schools around the nation came to College Park, Maryland for the week- long U.S. Physics Team Training Camp. These students have competed against hundreds of their peers across the country in a rigorous series of tests to earn a place on the 2002 Physics Team.

Since 1986, the American Institute of Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers, with support from other societies, have recruited, selected, and trained teams to compete in the International Physics Olympiad. In conjunction with the Team's visit to the nation's capitol, AIP and AAPT sent a brief policy statement to Congress. Members of Congress were invited to join in "celebrating the achievements of these U.S. Physics Team students" by supporting full funding for federal programs to improve K-12 science and math education.

In the Education Department, specific funding for science and math education reform is provided through the Math and Science Partnerships program. As has been reported previously, this program was established and authorized at $450 million annually in the "No Child Left Behind" bill (now Public Law 107-110), but only received $12.5 million in FY 2002. Another $12.5 million has been requested for FY 2003. This will not be enough for the program to reach high-need school districts in all states, as it was intended to do. NSF also has its own version of Math and Science Partnerships. The NSF Partnerships, which are merit- based awards to develop model reform programs, received $160 million in FY 2002; $200 million has been requested for the coming year. A bill to authorize this program at $200 million per year was passed by the House (H.R. 1858), but the companion bill (S. 1262) has not yet passed in the Senate.

The policy statement sent to Congress by AIP and AAPT was endorsed by eight other scientific societies, including these AIP Member Societies: the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the American Astronomical Society, and the Acoustical Society of America. The text of the statement follows:

"We urge Congress to support K-12 science and math education, particularly programs that enable professional development for teachers and preparation of new teachers, by funding the Math and Science Partnership programs at the levels called for in authorizing legislation:

$450 million for the Department of Education Partnerships in P.L. 107-110, and

$200 million for the NSF Partnerships in the House-passed H.R. 1858."

For 2002, due to concerns about international travel, the Physics Team will not send students to compete in the international Olympiad, held this year in Indonesia. Instead, the top five Team members were presented with awards and scholarships at a June 7 ceremony cosponsored by AIP, AAPT, and NASA's Office of Space Science. The students heard from astronaut John Grunsfeld and several federal officials, including Norman Neureiter, the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State. "You're not going to Indonesia this year," Neureiter said, "but you are in fact starting your trip out into a world of science, and automatically with that you're joining an international world, a world which will cross borders. And I guarantee as you go out into that world, you're going to have a lot of international experiences. Physics is perhaps the most universal of sciences today. Electrons travel with the same speed and the same spin no matter what language is spoken, no matter what borders they cross."

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) sent a letter "to congratulate and celebrate the achievements of the students of the United States Physics Team," and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) introduced remarks into the Congressional Record on June 6 "to applaud the achievements of the members of the 2002 Unites States Physics Olympiad Team.... I personally want to thank all of the students who made an effort to become a part of this team for showing others that science is and can be fun. Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in saluting these future leaders of our country."

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
(301) 209-3094

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