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FYI Number 130: November 26, 2002

Education Provisions in NSF Reauthorization Bill

The NSF Reauthorization bill (H.R. 4664) just passed by Congress contains a number of provisions dealing with science, math, engineering and technology (SMET) education, both at the K-12 and at the undergraduate level. The bill authorizes, within NSF, a program of Mathematics and Science Education Partnerships to improve K-12 science and math education, as well as a Noyce Scholarship program to encourage SMET majors to pursue teaching careers, a Talent Expansion program to encourage college students to pursue SMET careers, Centers for Research on Learning and Education Improvement, and other programs to improve secondary and undergraduate SMET instruction. While an earlier version of the bill attempted to terminate the Education Department's Math and Science Partnership program and consolidate all such partnerships within NSF (see FYI #105), the final version of the bill preserves the separate partnership programs within NSF and the Education Department.

Keep in mind that, as pointed out in FYI #129, an authorization bill approves programs and sets funding limits, but does not provide the actual money. When available, the authorization levels are given below, along with highlights from the bill authorizing specific education programs. (The bill does not include language on all of NSF's pre-existing education programs.)

MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS: The NSF Director is authorized to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to institutions of higher education, eligible nonprofit organizations, or consortia thereof, working with science, math or engineering departments, at least one local educational agency, and possibly businesses and a State educational agency, "to establish mathematics and science education partnership programs to improve elementary and secondary mathematics and science instruction." Approved programs and activities include those to recruit, prepare and retain K-12 science and math teachers; teacher professional development and research opportunities; distance learning programs; Master teacher programs; and alternative certification programs for SMET professionals. Activities should be based on contemporary educational research and aligned with State academic achievement standards. The Director should "give priority to applications in which the partnership includes a high-need local educational agency." The Director, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, is directed to report annually on how this program is being coordinated with the Math and Science Partnership program within the Education Department. The bill authorizes the Math and Science Partnerships at the following levels: FY03: $200 million; FY04: $300 million; FY05: $400 million.

ROBERT NOYCE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM: In this program, competitive, merit-reviewed grants would be awarded to institutions of higher education or consortia thereof, to provide scholarships, stipends, and other programs to students majoring in science, math or engineering, to encourage them to pursue careers in K-12 science and math teaching. Institutions may continue aid and support to stipend recipients after they have received their degrees. Within six years after graduation, recipients are required to complete a two-year service obligation, as a science or math teacher in a high-need local education agency, for each year of the scholarship or stipend. The bill authorizes the Noyce Scholarships at the following levels: FY03: $20 million; FY04: $20 million; FY05: $20 million.

SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS, ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY TALENT EXPANSION PROGRAM: This program would award "competitive, merit-based, multi-year grants" to higher education institutions or consortia "to increase the number of students studying toward and completing associate's or bachelor's degrees" in SMET fields, "particularly in fields that have faced declining enrollment in recent years." Projects can promote such activities as undergraduate-conducted research; interdisciplinary teaching; mentor relationships for students; bridge programs for community college students; internship partnerships with industry; or innovative uses of digital technologies. Applicants are expected to "establish targets to increase the number of students" pursuing SMET degrees. The Talent Expansion Program is authorized at the following levels: FY03: $25 million; FY04: $30 million; FY05: $35 million.

CENTERS FOR RESEARCH ON LEARNING AND EDUCATION IMPROVEMENT: The bill authorizes competitive, merit-reviewed grants to institutions of higher education or consortia, to establish multidisciplinary centers "to conduct and evaluate research in cognitive science, education, and related fields and to develop ways in which the results of such research can be applied in elementary school and secondary school classrooms to improve the teaching of mathematics and science."

SECONDARY SCHOOL SYSTEMIC INITIATIVE: This program would award competitive, merit-based grants for State or local educational agencies to support "the planning and implementation of agency-wide secondary school reform initiatives designed to promote scientific and technological literacy, meet the mathematics and science education needs of students at risk of not achieving State student academic achievement standards, reduce the need for basic skill training by employers, and heighten college completion rates" through a number of approved activities.

UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION REFORM: The NSF Director is authorized to award competitive, merit-based grants "to institutions of higher education to expand previously implemented reforms of undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, or technology education that have been demonstrated to have been successful in increasing the number and quality of students studying toward and completing associate's or baccalaureate degrees in science, mathematics, engineering, or technology."

MINORITY-SERVING INSTITUTIONS UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM: The NSF Director "is authorized to establish a new program to award grants on a competitive, merit-reviewed basis to Hispanic-serving institutions, Alaska Native-serving institutions, Native Hawaiian-serving institutions, and other institutions of higher education serving a substantial number of minority students to enhance the quality of undergraduate science, mathematics, and engineering education at such institutions and to increase the retention and graduation rates of students pursuing associate's or baccalaureate degrees" in SMET fields.

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

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