America COMPETES and Opportunity Equation: Synergy and Support

Grantees in this story

Washington, D.C., January 20, 2010 — As Congress begins to consider reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, the Carnegie Corporation of New York-Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education urges Members of Congress to use its recent report, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy, as a guidepost. The study offers fresh perspective and concrete actions for strengthening the Act and continuing our country’s commitment to increasing the number of students proficient in science and mathematics and interested in related careers.  

“The Carnegie Corporation of New York–Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education shares a common goal with the America COMPETES Act – to raise public awareness of the central role math and science play in the revitalization of the American economy and, in particular, to improving the economic security of young Americans,” said Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “Support for America COMPETES reauthorization is a major aspect of Opportunity Equation’s recommendations, which identify Federal action as key to a genuine transformation in the way we view the importance of STEM skills and careers.” 

The Carnegie Corporation of New York–Institute for Advanced Study call comes as Congress begins to consider the future of America COMPETES. The hearing held today by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology – “America COMPETES: Big Picture Perspectives on the Need for Innovation, Investments in R&D and a Commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education” – is an important step in the process to gather feedback from a range of stakeholders on the need for an even stronger commitment to STEM education.  

“The Carnegie Corporation of New York–Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education’s Opportunity Equation has made great strides in assessing not only the current state of math and science education in the United States but also how to enhance the capacity of schools and universities to increase access to high-quality education for every student,” said Phillips Griffiths, Professor of Mathematics and Former Director, Institute for Advanced Study. “We believe the report does more than merely provide lessons learned and a collection of general recommendations. Taken together, the insights of Opportunity Equation provide a roadmap for change that America COMPETES can follow.”  

Released in June, 2009, Opportunity Equation kicked-off a national mobilization effort to achieve much higher levels of math and science learning. The report recommends concrete actions that a range of organizations can take – from labor and business to federal and state government, colleges and universities, and donors – to coalesce and “do school differently” in order to transform math and science education.  

Specifically, the report calls on the Federal government, including Congress, to take the following actions: 

  • Mount campaigns that generate public awareness about the importance of STEM education and its connection to a wide range of careers; 
  • Build understanding and will among policymakers and education, business, and civic leaders to close the gap between current education achievement and the future knowledge and skill needs of students; 
  • Increase public understanding of the connection between better standards, assessments, teacher evaluations, instruction, and better math and science education for all students; 
  • Endorse the Common Core Standards Initiative; 
  • Support research and development activities that strengthen understanding of what all students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college, thrive in the workforce, and participate in civic life; 
  • Incentivize and invest in the development of higher quality systems in assessments, standards, teacher recruitment, certification, professional development, retention, compensation, and use of data; 
  • Identify school models and innovations in school design and instruction; and  
  • Narrow the gap between research and practice, and bring innovation and design approaches to bear by developing research and development capacity within groups such as federal agencies, private-sector companies, universities, and cultural and scientific institutions, including those in areas outside of education, such as economic development, energy, and the environment.

There is broad support from all sectors for the Opportunity Equation recommendations.  

  • The Obama Administration’s Educate to Innovate project is deeply rooted in the work of the report. The report’s recommendations are also guiding the development of a new public-private partnership that will mobilize U.S. business to improve STEM education for all U.S. students, as announced by the President in November;
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York staff is frequently tapped to consult on STEM education-related issues in the states; and  
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York was a major supporter and one of the central conveners of states – with Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES), National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Innovate-Educate—for a recent STEM Resource Conference, which brought together STEM experts from corporations, universities, nonprofits, and foundations to inform states’ Race to the Top proposals.

In addition, more than 65 groups have affirmed their support of Opportunity Equation’s recommendations. Supporting organizations range from colleges and universities to civil rights organizations, unions, and businesses and include, for example, the National Education Association, Alliance for Excellent Education, National Urban League, New Visions for Public Schools, American Association of Community Colleges, Center for American Progress, Council of Chief State School Officers, The Education Trust, National Council of La Raza, National Governors Association, and Pearson. 

“We are thrilled with the level of support so far for the recommendations and guidance contained in the Opportunity Equation—from the work of the Administration, the U.S. Department of Education and the states,” said Michele Cahill, Vice President, National Programs and Program Director, Urban Education, Carnegie Corporation of New York. “But the next test will be the work of Congress on the reauthorization of America COMPETES. We have the opportunity as a nation to put our commitments in writing and fund the types of programs that will increase our STEM capacity and place math and science more squarely at the center of the educational enterprise.” 

An additional resource for Congress as they reauthorize the America COMPETES Act is a national poll of 904 pairs of 8th to 10th grade students and their parents conducted by Carnegie in 2009. This was the first time that students and their parents were polled about the importance of math and science. The poll found that many young people, if not most, have negative attitudes and beliefs regarding math and science. These views extend to both the study of and the pursuit of careers in these fields. Simultaneously, most parents recognize the importance of math and science to college success and work opportunities. Yet, only a minority view advanced coursework as “absolutely essential” and most think the amount of math and science their own children is taking is fine.   

America COMPETES clearly states that engaging more students in the study of math and science and equipping a larger segment of the teaching force with effective science and math education strategies is paramount.  But, as outlined in the Opportunity Equation recommendations, legislation such as America COMPETES and other STEM-focused programs must also include initiatives geared towards changing public opinion about the importance of rigorous math and science education for all students and the possibilities inherent in these careers.   

To view the full report, visit Opportunity Equation. For more information about Carnegie Corporation of New York or the Institute for Advanced Study, visit or

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