Park City Mathematics Institute
Secondary School Teachers Program
Summer 2012
What's Going on in Mathematics Education on the Federal Level?
by Peg Cagle, Einstein Fellow

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Despite most decisions governing public education being made at state or local levels, there is an undeniable federal influence. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is currently four years overdue, so the mandates and punishments established by No Child Left Behind, remain in effect. It is highly unlikely that any movement will be made on the reauthorization until after the Presidential election in November. At the same time, the Department of Education has begun issuing waivers to states willing to meet criteria including statewide teacher systems based significantly on student test scores. One bright spot in the proposed language is the establishment of STEM education as a priority. STEM is ubiquitous elsewhere in the policy arena.

The President's budget proposes $260 million for a range of STEM programs including $30 million to be matched by equal funding from the National Science Foundation for a math education initiative to serve as a cross-agency model to investigate and promote evidence-based programs. The $260 million also includes $80 million for the President's 100Kin10 program to support the recruitment, preparation and retention of 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next decade. There is already $22 million in non-profit funding towards this effort. While not specifically a STEM program, there is also an allocation of $5 billion to establish a new initiative entitled RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching) aimed at having states, school districts, classroom teachers, unions, colleges of education and other education stakeholders work collectively to design wide-reaching reform of the teaching profession, including preparation, practice, monitoring and career lattices.

   

The Office of Science and Technology Policy is in the midst of writing a 5-year strategic plan to guide all federal investment in STEM education. This would include funding to agencies, such as NASA and NOAA along with guidelines for STEM programs housed at the Department of Education. In addition, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology have issued two reports addressing STEM education: Prepare & Inspire, regarding K-12 and Engage to Excel, regarding undergraduate study. Engage to Excel has raised concerns among the math community for recommending that introductory math courses be designed and taught by faculty from related fields who would be better able to bring mathematics to life for students, and reduce the current attrition rate from introductory classes. This issue is indicative of a general problem at the federal level: STEM features prominently in the rhetoric, but those conversations are being driven by scientists who rarely address mathematics as foundational to the work of STEM as well as a worthy discipline in is own right.

Related Links
Peg Cagle: Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education
Peg Cagle: 2011-2012 Poster
Meet Your New NCTM President and Board Members
Messy Problems and Messy Solutions: Curriculum -Proof Teachers vs. Teacher-Proof Curricula
PCMI 2008: Peg Cagle: Modular Origami in the Secondary Geometry Classroom
An Amazing, Space Filling, Non-regular Tetrahedron by Joyce Frost and Peg Cagle

 

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IAS/Park City Mathematics Institute is an outreach program of the Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Einstein Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540.
Send questions or comments to: Suzanne Alejandre and Jim King

With program support provided by Math for America

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0314808 and Grant No. ESI-0554309. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.