U.S. Must Mobilize For Excellence And Equity In Mathematics And Science Education, Says Carnegie Corporation’s Gregorian In Congressional Statement

Washington, DC, March 4, 2010 — We have entered into a new phase of globalization characterized by knowledge-based economies and fierce competition.  The United States can no longer afford not to be fully engaged with math and science and their application to teaching and learning. If we believe, as the great education reformer Horace Mann did, that “education is the engine of democracy,” then the strength and progress of both American society and our democracy depend on our ability to mobilize around this work, with clear goals and great determination, Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York told the House Committee on Science and Technology (Committee) on reform in K-12 STEM education.  Read Dr. Gregorian’s statement for the record.

Referring to “The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy,” published in June 2009 by the Carnegie Corporation of the New York-Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science Education, Gregorian said we have what we believe is the definitive roadmap not only for the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, but also education reform overall. The report and the two years of study and deliberation that went into it are truly unlike any reform effort that has come before.

Firstly, the Commission that authored the report did not just call for reform. Rather, its ultimate goal—its challenge to the nation—was far bolder: the United States must mobilize for excellence and equity in mathematics and science education. The Commission believed that the magnitude of the challenge demands transformative change in classrooms, schools, education systems and beyond. Educators, students, parents, universities, museums, businesses, scientists, mathematicians, and public officials at all levels will need to embrace a new understanding that the world has shifted dramatically—and that an equally dramatic shift is needed in educational expectations and the design of schooling. As a society, we must commit ourselves to the reality that all students can achieve at high levels in math and science, that we need them to do so for their own futures and for the future of our country, and that we owe it to them to structure and staff our educational system accordingly.

Secondly, all students, not just a select few, or those fortunate enough to attend certain schools, must achieve much higher levels of math and science learning. By higher levels, we mean the requisite math and science skills to understand the natural world, the built environment, systems of society, and the interactions among them that will determine the future of our nation and planet. These are competencies that all Americans must have if they are to contribute to and gain from the country’s future productivity, understand policy choices, and participate in building a sustainable future. Knowledge and skills from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields, are crucial to virtually every endeavor of individual and community life. Therefore, all young Americans should be educated to be “STEM-capable,” no matter what educational path they pursue, or in which field they choose to work.

Thirdly, success in achieving excellent math and science learning for all students requires that math and science be placed more squarely at the center of the educational enterprise. Making improvements in only math and science education is not enough. Rather, we need to give at least equal weight to driving fundamental change throughout our educational system—in the nation’s schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education.

Finally, we must go beyond generalities. The report lays out a comprehensive program of action, describing concrete steps that a range of stakeholders—from labor and business to federal and state government, school districts, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, and philanthropy—can take.