Members of the House and Senate are now meeting to work out the differences in their versions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As reported in the previous FYI, both bills include some form of Math and Science Partnership initiative to improve education in K-12 science and math.
Last month, the American Institute of Physics and several of its Member Societies joined in a letter to the House and Senate conferees, urging support for the Math and Science Partnerships, math and science teacher recruitment, and assessment of student achievement in science. A total of 21 organizations, including AIP, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, and the American Physical Society, signed the letter, which was sent under the auspices of the K-12 Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education Coalition. The text of the letter follows:
"On behalf of the K-12 Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology (SMET) Coalition, we would like to thank you for your leadership on legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We are particularly pleased to see that both H.R. 1 and S. 1 include provisions establishing a Math and Science Partnership initiative. We strongly support this style of partnership activity as a tool for improving teaching and learning in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.
"The science, math, engineering, and technology community has long been concerned with the state of K-12 science, math, engineering, and technology education. To increase student learning in these areas, and enable the United States to compete globally with a strong science and technology literate workforce, we need to commit a significant amount of resources for SMET education now. The Coalition recommends that conferees support the highest possible funding level for the Math and Science partnerships.
"We also urge conferees to authorize these partnerships through competitive grants at the state level.
"We also support the allowable activities and eligible partners outlined in Section 2202 and Section 2213 of S. 1 respectively. These activities include professional development, curriculum development, and teacher recruitment, all of which will help local districts address their particular needs.
"To address the serious problem of teacher recruitment, we strongly support recruiting students with strong science, math or engineering backgrounds to be teachers, as included in Section 2023(c)2(A) of the House bill.
"Finally, assessment of science learning must be included, as in Section 1111 of S. 1. If science testing is not part of this reauthorization, classroom time for science will be reduced in favor of other subjects that are being tested. We urge you to support the Senate language that calls for the development of quality state tests. We also support the development of state needs assessments to determine the professional development and teacher quality needs in local schools.
"Thank you for considering our concerns, and for your acknowledgment of the need to improve science, math, engineering, and technology education. Please contact Christina Hood at 202.662.8718, if you have further questions or need additional information."