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Update on the National Science Education Acts of 2001 (12-4-01)

Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), a research physicist before joining Congress and a member of the House Science and the House Education and the Workforce Committees, reintroduced his three bills focused specifically on science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education.  Ehlers originally introduced the bill package in the 106th Congress: the National Science Education Act (H.R. 100), the National Science Education Enhancement Act (H.R. 101), and the National Science Education Incentive Act (H.R. 102).  These bills are part of what Ehlers and others are calling the National Science Education Acts of 2001 package.  Ehlers and his staff are interested in feedback from the science education community.  The full text of the bills and information from the press conference are available on Ehlers's Science Education website.

Ehlers' bills target SMET education and the recruitment of well-trained teachers.  The bill emphasizes that SMET "lessons ought to reflect the scientific process, be object-oriented, experiment-centered, and concept-based."  The National Science Education Act (NSEA) deals largely with "improving and expanding the activities of the National Science Foundation" through the development of grants and scholarships aimed at teachers in SMET education and research.  The National Science Education Enhancement Act aims to improve and expand SMET education activities at the Department of Education.  And lastly, the National Science Education Incentive Act "concentrates on expanding provisions in the tax code to encourage activities that will benefit science, math, engineering and technology education."

Most Recent Action
On July 13th, the House Science Committee passed both H.R. 1858, the National Mathematics and Science Partnership Act, and H.R. 100, the National Science Education Act, by unanimous voice vote.  H.R. 1858, introduced by Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), expands K-12 education programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and encourages colleges, universities and businesses to become more involved in improving pre-college science, mathematics and technology education by creating partnerships and scholarship programs.  The bill would create scholarship funds to allow teachers research opportunities at universities as well as recruit and train math and science college graduates to become teachers.  It provides for the expansion of the NSF science, mathematics, engineering, and technical education library to include more K-12 instructional materials and improved K-12 science and math education through a program development conference sponsored by the Office of Science and Technology.  Added to H.R. 1858 was the manager's amendment, which incorporated minor revisions from both Democratic and Republican members.  H.R. 100 was part of Rep. Vernon Ehlers's (R-MI) package of three bills (H.R. 100, H.R. 101, and H.R. 102) introduced aimed specifically at reforming science and math education.  These bills are identical to the National Science Education Acts that he introduced in the last Congress.  No amendments were added to H.R. 100.  Both bills were passed by the House in the end of July and sent to the Senate. Both bills were passed by the House in the end of July and sent to the Senate. (8/6/01)


 NSEA  NSEEA   NSEIA 
Summary of Legislation

The National Science Education Act
The National Science Education Act (NSEA) would amend the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, the act that established the National Science Foundation (NSF) and guides the agency's activities, to include several new provisions.  The first program authorized under H.R. 100 is the Master Teacher Grant Program, which would provide grants to elementary and middle schools to hire a "master teacher."  According to the bill, a master teacher will provide program support to "not more than 10 [SMET] teachers" and be "responsible for in-classroom assistance and oversight of hands-on inquiry materials, equipment, and supplies, including supplying and repairing such materials."  Master teacher grants would be available through NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate.

NSEA goes on to outline a competitive grant for partnership projects between secondary school and college students and university faculty, software developers, and experts in educational technology that work on the "development of high-quality educational software and Internet web sites by such students, faculty, developers, and experts."

One of the largest undertakings of the legislation is the formation of a Working Group on SMET Education.  The working group would be charged with reviewing and coordinating "regular and supplemental curricula in kindergarten through the twelfth grade for science, mathematics, engineering, and technology."  Members of the 15-person working group would be appointed by the Director of NSF for a three-year term and "shall have experience in the fields of life science, physical science, earth science, chemistry, technology, math[ematics], or engineering."  The working group would be required to publish the criteria upon which their reviews will be based and disseminate information to local and state educational agencies on "award-winning programs."

Other provisions in the bill include: one requiring the Director of NSF to work with the Secretary of Education to disseminate information on required course of study for careers in SMET education, one directing NSF to have the National Academy of Sciences conduct a study on the "effectiveness of technology in the classroom on learning and student performance, as measured by State standardized tests;" one establishing a NSF grant for professional development to improve the use of technology in the classroom, one charging NSF to sponsor a National Science Education Forum conference, as well as several other programs for enhanced use of technology in the classroom and distance learning via technology.

After being introduced on April 11th, NSEA was referred to the House Committee on Science and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The bill was introduced with 16 cosponsors: Judy Biggert (R-IL), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Merrill Cook (R-UT), Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), William Jenkins (R-TN), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Steven Kuykendall (R-CA), John Edward Porter (R-IL), Marge Roukema (R-NJ), Nick Smith (R-MI), Jon Sweeney (R-NY), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Heather Wilson (R-NM).


The National Science Education Enhancement Act
The National Science Education Enhancement Act (NSEEA), H.R. 101, lays out six changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 that aim to provide professional development for science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) educators.  The bill provides targeted amendments to expand and build upon current programs at the Department of Education (DoEd).  Citing problems of support networks for novice SMET teachers, the bill starts by expanding the type of materials currently catalogued by the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse to include materials to enhance mentoring programs.  Under the current ESEA regulations, local and state educational agencies must provide a strategy for how funds will be used to meet the goals of a particular program.  The Clearinghouse expansion would follow this process and require state and local educational agencies to provide methods they would use to improve mentoring for novice teachers.  According to the legislation, mentoring programs must "provide a structure for local mentoring program evaluation, provide technical assistance to local mentoring programs, ensure compliance by local mentoring programs with state teacher training requirements, and provide incentives for local educational agencies to take mentoring into consideration in assessing instructional staff hiring needs."  H.R. 4272 would also change the local activities available for funding from the Eisenhower Professional Development Program to include "mentoring programs focusing on changing science, mathematics, engineering, and technology teacher behaviors and practices to help novice teachers develop and gain confidence in their skills, to increase the likelihood that they will continue in the teaching profession, and generally to improve the quality of their teaching."

In addition to including materials on mentoring and programs to improve retention of novice SMET educators, the bill would charge the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse with reviewing, ranking and distributing information on programs contained within the Clearinghouse database as well as develop a search engine for retrieving information from the Clearinghouse.  Two years after the expansion of activities at the Clearinghouse are implemented, the National Academy of Sciences will conduct a study on whether the new activities "have resulted in the Clearinghouse becoming a more effective entity."

The longest provision of H.R. 4272 would establish (or re-establish) Summer Professional Development Institutes for SMET teachers.  DoEd in cooperation with NSF would award grants to local education agencies and institutes of higher education to hold these summer programs.  The competitive grants would be awarded based on a peer-review application process that would give priority to applicants who use a curriculum recognized by the Working Group established in the National Science Education Act of 2001.  Summer programs should be "content-based, build on school-year curricula, and focus only secondarily on pedagogy" as well as "provide supplemental assistance and follow up training during the school year." The NSF Director would lead the peer-review grant process and develop "a theme and structure for the summer institutes," but grants would be awarded through DoEd.

Other provisions of the bill would encourage more science after-school programs and science programs at community learning centers as well as a charge to the Department of Commerce to conduct a study of "the feasibility and effectiveness of various incentive, including tax credits, for corporations and businesses to provide" support to SMET education activities and SMET training.

After being introduced on April 11th NSEEA was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The bill was introduced with the same 16 cosponsors as NSEA.


The National Science Education Incentive Act
The National Science Education Incentive Act (NSEIA), H.R. 102, would change the current tax code to provide tax credits as incentives for individuals and private companies to participate in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education activities.  SMET teachers "who graduate from rigorous, content-based preparation programs" would receive a tax credit of "ten percent of their total college tuition, up to $1,000 per year for ten years."  The bill would also encourage private industries to provide SMET educators a "teacher externship" that enhances that teacher's knowledge and teaching skills in SMET areas.

After being introduced on April 11th NSEIA was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.  The bill was introduced with 16 cosponsors.


Sources: Triangle Coalition, American Institute of Physics, National Science Teachers Association, Library of Congress, legislative text, and press conference information packet

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret A. Baker, AGI Government Affairs

Posted December 4, 2001


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