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Topic: U.S. National Science Board Responds to Poor Achievement
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,657
Registered: 12/3/04
U.S. National Science Board Responds to Poor Achievement
Posted: Aug 4, 1998 11:40 AM
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NSB URGES RESPONSE TO POOR ACHIEVEMENT
IN MATH & SCIENCE EDUCATION

The National Science Board (NSB) urges all stakeholders in
kindergarten through twelfth grade education to develop a nation
wide consensus on core knowledge and competency in mathematics
and science. Responding to the U.S. twelfth grade student
performance on the Third International Mathematics and Science
Study (TIMSS), the NSB made four recommendations for
accomplishing this goal in a statement released this week titled
"Failing Our Children: Implications for the Third International
Mathematics and Science Study."

Nationwide consensus on core competencies is critical,
emphasized NSB Chair Eamon Kelly. "Given the high degree of
population mobility and the demands of the economy, all
localities are preparing students for what has become a national
workforce."

Kelly added that increasing mobility of Americans has
resulted in shallow education for some students. "We must share
core competencies in order to overcome the effects of mobility,"
explained Kelly. "It is ironic that a crisis in math and science
education should erupt in the midst of this golden age in science
and technology," he added.

The board statement describes changes that need to be made
at the grass-roots level, involving the entire community of
stakeholders in math and science education. Specifically, the
board hopes to help reverse the below-the-international-average
performance of U.S. high school students on science achievement.

In particular, the board recommends: developing a much-
needed consensus on a common core of math and science knowledge
and skills to be embedded consistently in instructional
materials; building a system of rewards and incentives for well
trained teachers; establishing college admissions criteria that
reinforce high standards; and supporting partnerships among
various stakeholders to ensure access to effective programs in
math and science education.

"No nation can afford to tolerate what prevails in American
schooling: generally low expectations and low performance with
only pockets of excellence," said Mary K. Gaillard, Chair of the
NSB TIMSS Task Force. "It will not suffice to be satisfied with
a small, elite cadre of highly educated engineers and scientists
while the balance of our citizens remain scientifically
illiterate," she said.

The National Science Board is composed of 24 members who
represent the leadership of U.S. science and engineering. They
are appointed by the President to oversee the National Science
Foundation and to monitor the health of science in the nation.
The statement reflects the board's responsibility in national
science and technology policy.

*************************************************************

Attachment: NSB Statement: Failing Our Children: Implications
of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study

Editors: NSB papers and other materials are available at:
http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents (The policy paper titled
"Failing Our Children: Implications of the Third International
Mathematics and Science Study," which appears below, is posted on
the web also.)

The National Science Board (NSB) was established by Congress in
1950 to serve both as an independent national science policy body
and to oversee and guide the activities of the National Science
Foundation.
_________________________

July 28, 1998

National Science Board

FAILING OUR CHILDREN:
IMPLICATIONS OF THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL
MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY

The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
reports disturbing findings about the performance of U.S.
secondary school students in science and mathematics, ranking
them well below the international average. Together with an
array of related national data, the TIMSS results raise serious
concerns about the state of U.S. education.

No nation can afford to tolerate what prevails in American
schooling: generally low expectations and low performance in
mathematics and science, with only pockets of excellence at a
world-class level of achievement. Formal education has
traditionally been the path to productive careers, upward
mobility, and the joy of lifelong learning. If we do not arm our
children with appropriate tools, we fail them.

It is the conviction of the National Science Board that world
class achievement in science and mathematics education is of
critical importance to our Nation's future. In the new global
context, a scientifically literate population is vital to the
democratic process, a healthy economy, and our quality of life.

The National Science Board urges all stakeholders in our vast
grass-roots system of K-12 education to develop a nation-wide
consensus for a common core of knowledge and competency in
mathematics and science.

The TIMSS report and other studies of education practices here
and abroad make a compelling case for rigor and depth as
essential components of mathematics and science instruction. A
clear message of the data is that in-depth study of a few topics
within a subject each year yields far better results than the
broad, repetitive, superficial coverage of many topics that
characterizes current U.S. curricula.

For a mobile population, local schools are de facto national
resources for learning. Students often move several times during
their K-12 education, encountering varying curricula and
instructional materials that cover an increasing number of topics
while sacrificing depth and rigor. Student access to exemplary
teachers and support also suffers. Without better coordination
across districts and States on common elements in each year of
schooling, progress in students' mathematics and science
knowledge and skills will not be achieved.

K-12 mathematics and science education is a shared responsibility
that requires coordination and dialogue among all stakeholders.
This dialogue must include parents, teachers, and principals, as
well as State and local education officials, political leaders,
the scientific community (including experts in educational
research and cognitive science), universities and colleges,
business and industry, the media, the National Science
Foundation, and other Federal agencies.

Working collectively, stakeholders in every community need to
address issues such as:

™ developing a much-needed consensus on a common core of
mathematics and science knowledge and skills to be embedded
consistently in instructional materials;

™ building a system of rewards and incentives, including
appropriate salaries, for well-trained teachers who are
knowledgeable about content and pedagogically skillful;

™ establishing college admissions criteria that reinforce high
standards in K-12 education and bolster participation of all
students in mathematics and science; and

™ supporting partnerships among various stakeholders that
assure access to effective programs in mathematics and science
education.

Over the past decade, many school districts throughout the U.S.
have acted to reform and invigorate teaching and learning for all
students. The National Science Board applauds these efforts.
They have yielded models for how the Nation might move toward
more coherence in demanding and rewarding excellence in K-12
mathematics and science.

The National Science Board has a special responsibility to enlist
the science and engineering community as a precious resource -
both individually and through their employing institutions and
professional associations - in support of local programs. Aided
by a series of regional field hearings already in progress, the
Board will solicit the views and analyses of stakeholders as an
input to a report on possible strategies for raising student
achievement.

The National Science Board affirms that rigor and depth of
content will enable world-class achievement in the mathematics
and science education of all citizens. These are matters of
national priority, of shared responsibility, and of rededication
to the American ethic of education for all. The 21st century
demands nothing less.
*******************************************************************
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)
E-mail: JBECKER@SIU.EDU





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