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Summary of Hearings on Science Education and
U.S. Competitiveness (6-3-05)

  • May 19, 2005: House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness, Oversight Hearing on “Challenges to American Competitiveness in Math and Science.”
  • House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness,
    Oversight Hearing on “Challenges to American Competitiveness in Math and Science.”

    May 19, 2005

    Witnesses:
    Norm Augustine, Lockheed Martin Corporation Board of Directors
    Dr. Thomas Magnanti, Dean of the School of Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education
    Dr. Nancy Songer, Professor of Science Education and Learning Technologies at the University of Michigan

    The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness held a hearing on the quality of math and science education in the United States. In his opening remarks, subcommittee Chairman Howard McKeon (R-CA) acknowledged that “the United States still leads the world in science and technological innovation” but emphasized our urgent need to “continue to be adaptive and flexible to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.” Calling for increased incentives to attract math and science graduates, McKeon identified the problem as a “pipeline issue” stating, “there are simply not enough students going through the K-12 system and the higher education system that are really interested in science.” Ranking Member Dale Kildee (D-MI) posed a similar question: “do we need another Sputnik to make us realize the impact that math and science education will have on our future competitiveness as a nation?”

    Norm Augustine of Lockheed's Board of Directors (former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin) testified that American businesses are relying too heavily on foreign graduates to fill upper-level science positions. Echoing McKeon’s earlier remarks, Augustine suggested government funded scholarship incentives for top-performing students. Augustine also called for increased teaching incentives to combat the temptation of teachers leaving schools to join the private sector, where salaries are generally higher and the environment may be less challenging.

    Dr. Nancy Songer from the University of Michigan testified that, because of the increasing emphasis placed on standardized tests, American students have little opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of math and science subjects. Recalling a visit to Japan where students study only 3 to 4 ecology concepts per year, Dr. Songer expressed concern over the complexity of the American K-12 science curriculum.

    Representative Tom Osborne (R-NE) asked the panelists for their opinion on the effectiveness of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). June Streckfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable on Education, carefully responded that in Maryland, state assessments are valued for direction and standards. Dr. Songer was also timid on the issue, calling NCLB “a wonderful way to get conversations going about the need for high standards and accountability” while noting the difficulties of implementing the plan.

    Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) spoke about the ability of American students to compete in the global market place. Referring to the national debate over the outsourcing of American jobs, Kind said instead that it is “not so much a race to the bottom” but rather a race to the top as countries like India and China invest more money into the development of science technologies.

    Kind also asked the panel to give the United States education system a letter grade for performance. Augustine gave the system a near-failing grade of D+, while Songer and Streckfus rated our system a bit lower with D grades. Dr. Thomas Magnanti, Dean of the School of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, avoided a direct answer, saying that as a professor, he would be hesitant to give a grade without a real test to judge our system fairly and comprehensively.

    Members Present: Howard McKeon (R-CA), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Tom Osborne (R-NE), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen, Jr. (D-MD), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), Tom Price (R-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Danny Davis (D-IL).

    -ATS

    Sources: Hearing testimony.

    Contributed by Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff, and Anne Smart, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern

    Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

    Last updated on May 12, 2005.

     

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