Opportunity Equation Reviews 2-Yr Progress in Effort to Improve Math, Science Learning for all American Students

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Growing Opportunity” report cites momentum gained and renews call to “do school differently”

In the two years since its release, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy has served as a call to action, a unifying framework, and a mission statement for improved math and science education. The report presented a vision for excellent, equitable science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning that would reach all U.S. students and prepare them for full participation as citizens and as workers in an increasingly global economy, and it lent momentum and credibility to a growing movement.

Now the conveners of the Commission – Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Institute for Advanced Study – are looking back on the major developments in each of the four areas emphasized in the original report: excellence and equity; standards and assessments; teaching and leadership; and school and system design. Growing Opportunity highlights priorities for the future and notes signs of change, including:

Excellence and Equity: Among recent signs that the nation’s commitment to STEM learning is on the rise are federal leadership through Educate to Innovate and competitive priorities for STEM in Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3); strong corporate involvement such as Change the Equation, a network of over 100 corporate CEOs focused on strategic investment in improved STEM education; state mobilization through state-level STEM plans and multi-sector coalitions; and nonprofit innovation in concert with forward-looking schools and districts.

Standards and Assessments: The shift toward more academically demanding shared K-12 standards has been rapid and decisive, through the Common Core State Standards Initiative for mathematics and the recently announced, state-led process to develop next-generation science standards. Two multi-state assessment consortia are designing high-quality assessments that will help teachers, schools, and districts implement the Common Core standards and chart improvements in student performance.

Teaching and Leadership: Over the past two years, multiple new efforts to increase the supply of math and science teachers who can inspire and engage students in rigorous STEM learning have emerged and existing STEM teaching initiatives have expanded. Equally important, the field is looking at the challenge from new angles, generating new ways to support professional learning, stimulate innovation, surface and share ideas, and improve on existing models.

School and System Design: The Commission argued that every element of a school’s design, including its use of time, money, talent, and technology, should be viewed as a potential asset to improve instruction and foster student resiliency and achievement. Integrated solutions to advance both equity and excellence have emerged in response to design challenges such as personalizing learning, leveraging technology, reinventing college math, and enabling invention.

“While our nation is still far from engaging all students in high-quality, equitable STEM education, we are measurably closer to that goal than we were two years ago,“ said Michele Cahill, Co-chair of the Commission and Vice President, National Programs at Carnegie Corporation of New York. “There is no doubt that in the past two years the drumbeat has grown stronger. The private sector, government leaders at all levels, education organizations, and other stakeholders recognize the need to ensure that all students are ‘STEM-capable,’ and they are more clearly focused on this goal than ever before.”

The Opportunity Equation report resonated powerfully with many constituencies: educators, professionals in the STEM fields, and government leaders, as well as concerned citizens in business, philanthropy, and other sectors. Many people recognized the justice of its findings and the practical roadmap for change of its recommendations. Many noted, as well, that it represented an important new framework for action from earlier reports: rather than looking at math and science education in isolation, the Commission argued that improving STEM education would depend on “doing school differently” through broader transformation of the American educational system.

Growing Opportunity challenges STEM stakeholders to continue to address the most pressing problems, and to ask:

* How can the weight of our efforts be put behind the most important and promising developments?

* What can be done to increase understanding of the problem and potential solutions among the public, educators, and other important groups?

* How can we maintain and accelerate progress toward the goal of excellence and equity in STEM learning for all American students?

“These questions can help prioritize the work that still needs to be done as we continue to forge the path ahead,” said Phillip A. Griffiths, Chair of the Commission and Past Director and Professor Emeritus of the Institute for Advanced Study. “Particularly given recent evidence about the changing U.S. economy and workforce, it is clear that preparing all American students to be ‘STEM-capable’ is even more urgent than we understood only two years ago. Good-paying jobs increasingly require at least some postsecondary education; without well-developed STEM skills and knowledge, American young people will be poorly equipped to succeed in college, thrive in the workforce, or participate fully as global citizens. This underscores that we must not only sustain the momentum we’ve gained over the past two years, but also accelerate our work.” 

You can view both reports, Growing Opportunity and The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy, on the Opportunity Equation website. For more information about Carnegie Corporation of New York or the Institute for Advanced Study, visit www.carnegie.org or www.ias.edu.

To follow on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/OppEquation.  

Opportunity Equation

The Opportunity Equation initiative promotes equity and excellence in mathematics and science education. A partnership between the Institute for Advanced Study and Carnegie Corporation of New York, Opportunity Equation engages national and local decision makers and thought leaders to carry out the recommendations of the Carnegie Corporation of New York-Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education in its 2009 report, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy. www.OpportunityEquation.org.