Federal Science Education Policy (11-5-03)
The most influential piece of legislation on education in the 107th Congress was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). The act has affected three areas in science education: Math and Science Partnerships (MSP), Eisenhower National Clearinghouse, and teacher development and retention. NCLB effectively ended the Eisenhower state grant program that distributed funds to states and school districts to enhance science and math education. In place of this state-grant program, NCLB established the Department of Education's (DoEd) Math/Science Partnership program. Also established around the same time was the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Math/Science Partnership program. Despite having the same name, these complementary programs have different goals. The act also partially eliminated programs in the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse that assist with professional development and curriculum resources. Then in 2002, the Education Sciences Reform Act (H.R.3801) was passed. This bill plans to phase out the remaining Eisenhower programs and replace them with Comprehensive Centers. The passing of NCLB has also produced a great demand for highly skilled and qualified science teachers. This has motivated Congress to introduce legislation for teacher development and retention.
On the heels of the second round of grants being awarded for the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program, the House Science Subcommittee on Research held an oversight hearing. Five witnesses testified enthusiastically about the program at the October 30, 2003 hearing. Schoolteachers and university representatives praised the new federal education program as a unique "opportunity to bring together partners across the community," to improve math and science education.
Subcommittee Chairman Nick Smith (R-MI) opened the hearing by reminding lawmakers that the goal of the program is to join partners together so that all children can learn and "no child is denied the math and science spark that will carry them through their formal education and into the world of work." Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) added, "The key component of the partnerships program, in my view, are to obtain a serious commitment of time and effort from science, math and engineering faculty at the participating institutions, to institute changes at all of the participating institutions that will lead to lasting educational improvements, and to assure that the program has built-in and effective mechanisms to assess program outcomes."
Indeed, each partnership discussed at the hearing included several school districts and one or more higher education institutions; some also included businesses, foundations, and other educational entitites. The programs are working to address each partner's needs. For instance, school districts need colleges to produce better K-12 teachers, and colleges are facing "dramatic decreases" in math and science enrollments and seek more students with an interest in those fields. Osman Yasar of the State University of New York, Brockport described his partnership's effort as one that's creating an "integrated computational math, science and technology curriculum with a 'layered' approach that allows students to acquire deper content knowledge as they develop greater interest."
Each partnership has its own objectives and must adhere to NSF's focus on documenting results. All involved want to put an end to the days when money was spent for education reform and there was nothing to show for it. Therefore, each partnership must aggressively build an "evidence base" and track achievement. Another recurring theme in the testimony was the major emphasis on recruitment, retention and development of teachers. As this program is so new, many involved are just as excited as Yasar who declared, "I've never been so excited about a project." However, heeding the caution that problems could lie ahead, the subcommittee will continue to monitor the program. (11/05/03)
On July 24, 2003 the House Appropriations Committee completed its initial fiscal year (FY) 2004 VA, HUD, & Independent Agencies spending bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF). The bill would provide $140 million NSF's Math and Science Partnership programs. The funding is $60 million less than the administration's request, but it is an increase of $12.5 million over last year's level.
In late June, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees both completed their initial fiscal year (FY) 2004 spending bills for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education (DoEd). Both bills contain funding for the DoEd's Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program. The House bill would provide $150 million for MSP, and the Senate bill would provide $100.3 million, the same as the program received in FY 2003. Both the Senate and House numbers tower above the administration's requested $12.5 million for MSP. The bills do not address the National Science Foundation's MSP programs, which are funded in the VA, HUD & Independent Agencies appropriations legislation. For more information, see the American Institute of Physics FYI 2003-84.
In late June, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees both completed their initial fiscal year (FY) 2004 spending bills for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education. Both bills restored funding for the Eisenhower Regional Consortia (ERC), which the Administration had proposed to be cut. The proposed $14.9 million budget for the ERC would keep the program running another year while their replacements, Comprehensive Centers, are established.
On July 9, 2003, the House passed two education bills. The first bill, the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2003 (H.R.438), was passed by a vote of 417-7. The bill will provide up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness to math, science, and special education teachers who agree to teach in low-income areas. In a press release, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) said that H.R. 438 will give schools the ability to recruit and retain highly skill teachers "to ensure our children have the skills necessary to compete in a highly technical global economy." The second bill, the Ready to Teach Act of 2003 (H.R.2211), was passed by a vote of 404-17. The bill will provide grants for teacher development, increase minority education, and it includes a provision to hold teachers accountable for the information they teach. In a press release, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said, "The Ready to Teach Act will ensure that there's a highly qualified teacher in every classroom." Both H.R. 438 and 2211 were sent to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
On May 22, 2003, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) introduced H.R.2211, the Ready to Teach Act of 2003. The bill is a competitive grant program that attempts to increase student academic achievement, improve teacher professional development, raise the accountability level for higher institutions to prepare qualified teachers, and to attract highly qualified individuals. The bill's goal is to attract highly qualified teachers to meet the demands of the Leave No Child Behind Act. It was forwarded to the full Committee on Education and the Workforce after passing the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness by a voice vote on June 4.
On March 18, 2003, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the College Opportunity for a Better America Act of 2003, H.R.1306. The bill will provide student loan forgiveness for borrowers who are employed full-time in qualified public service positions. The bill's purpose is to attract skilled and educated workers into the public service workforce. Some requirements to receive the loan abatement would be the amount of time the borrower was employed and what type of federal student loans they were given. The legislation targets teachers of science and mathematics and other "qualified workers who serve low-income or needy communities who are in public service professions that suffer from a critical lack of qualified personnel." The bill was referred to the House's Education and the Workforce's Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness with no further action.
In late January or early February, two similar bills were introduced in the Senate and the House. The Quality Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2003 (S.291) was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2003 (H.R.438) was introduced by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC). Both bills plan to increase "the amount of student loans that may be forgiven for teachers in mathematics, science, and special education." S.291 was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and H.R.438 was referred to the House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness. No further action has been taken on either bill.
On January 8, 2003, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced legislation (H.R.329) intend to improve mathematics and science instruction in elementary and secondary schools. The legislation will "authorize the Secretary of Education to make one-year grants for regional workshops and follow-up training designed to permit sharing of successful educational strategies" between educators, administrators, and faculty at institutes of higher education. The grants will be available to the DoEd Mathematics and Science Partnerships programs that were created in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. In late February the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness with no further action.
During the last congressional session a major educational focus was on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that established a range of federal programs across the nation. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was the presidential version of the reauthorization bill that was amended and passed by the 108th Congress in December 2001. President George W. Bush signed NCLB (H.R.1) into law on January 8, 2002.
Formerly, federal math and science education were supported by the Eisenhower programs --includes the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse (ENC) for Mathematics and Science Education, the Eisenhower Regional Mathematics and Science Education Consortia, and the Eisenhower Professional Development State Grants -- but H.R. 1 restructured the federal programs and terminated these programs in favor of math and science partnerships. These partnerships are administered through DoEd -- an identically named but separate program is funded through the National Science Foundation -- and allow school districts to partner with universities, businesses, and educational organizations to improve professional development for math and science teachers. The Eisenhower programs were funded at $485 million in fiscal year 2001, while H.R. 1 authorizes up to $450 million for math and science partnerships. Unfortunately, the appropriators have provided a measly $12.5 million for these partnerships for next year.
On November 5, 2002, the president signed the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (H.R.3801) into law. Introduced by Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) in late February, H.R. 3801 aims to improve education research, statistics, evaluation, information, and dissemination. The bill eliminated the Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) along with the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse and the Eisenhower Regional Consortia. In their place, the bill established the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The legislative language states that the Eisenhower Regional Consortia will continue to be supported until the Comprehensive Centers (CC), authorized under the act, are established. The Comprehensive Centers are proposed to be completed by 2004.
There are two math and science partnerships programs, one administered by the DoEd and the other by NSF. They have a shared purpose of developing academic achievement in mathematics and science. The DoEd's MSP program gives funds to states and school districts to allow school districts to partner with universities, businesses, and educational organizations to improve professional development for math and science teachers. It is a formula grant program to the states, with the size of individual state awards based on student population and poverty rates. Then the states will be responsible for administering competitive grant competitions within their state. The NSF's MSP programs are competitive grants that applicants apply for directly through NSF. The program provides scholarship funds to allow teachers research opportunities at universities as well as recruit and train math and science college graduates to become teachers.
Additional information on science education legislation in the 107th Congress is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/science_edu.html.
Sources: US Department of Education, National Science Foundation, National Education Association, Library of Congress, National Science Teachers Association, American Institute of Physics and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Background section includes material from AGI's Update on Science Education Policy for the 107th Congress.
Contributed by Deric R. Learman, AGI/AIPG Summer 2003 Intern.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on July 31, 2003