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Press Release 12-215 
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education: A Nation Advancing?

NSF-funded report by National Research Council shifts focus from high-stakes assessments to measuring continuing progress

A goal of the report is to expand the number of students who pursue advanced degrees in STEM.
Credit and Larger Version

November 15, 2012

Today the National Research Council (NRC) released a report, “Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education.” The report builds on previous work in this area, and establishes key indicators for measuring improvements to the K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education system.

The report recognizes the important foundation laid in elementary school and sets out three goals for U.S. K-12 STEM education:

  • Expand the number of students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields, and broaden the participation of women and minorities,
  • Expand the STEM-capable workforce and broaden the participation of women and minorities, and
  • Increase science literacy for all students

The report emphasizes that making informed decisions about improvements to education in STEM requires research and data about the content and quality of the curriculum, teachers’ content knowledge, and the use of instructional practices that have been shown to improve outcomes. However, large-scale data are not available in a readily accessible form, largely because state and federal data systems provide information about schools(personnel, organization and enrollment) rather than schooling (key elements of the learning process).

A major emphasis of this report is to determine what relevant data already exist and identify additional research and data needs. For example, tallying minutes per week spent on science in elementary schools would provide an important picture about the extent to which students are being engaged in science content and practices prior to their arrival at middle school. In addition, gathering data about schools that call themselves “STEM Schools” would give educators and parents more information about student learning and progress in those environments.

The authors note that this moment is ripe for addressing some of the challenges associated with STEM teaching and learning, particularly for groups that are underrepresented in the STEM fields. The authors point out that the Common Core State Standards in mathematics have been adopted by 45 states and three U.S. Territories. At the same point in time, A Framework for K-12 Science Education, which the NRC published earlier this year, lays the foundation for new science standards that emphasize conceptual understanding of key ideas in each discipline, greater coherence across grade levels and the practices of science and mathematics. Along with educational reforms around the country, these changes have the potential, per the report, to engage students in ways that better prepare them for postsecondary study and STEM careers, and eventually, to address current and future societal challenges and participate in an increasingly global and technologically driven society.

“This report is a tremendous resource for advancing STEM education in K-12 schools,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF’s assistant director for Education and Human Resources. “We look forward to working with our colleagues within and beyond NSF towards the goals laid out in the report.”


National Science Foundation (NSF) News – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education: A Nation Advancing? – US National Science Foundation (NSF).

International Tests Show East Asian Students Outperform World As U.S. Holds Steady

International Tests Show East Asian Students Outperform World As U.S. Holds Steady

Posted: 12/11/2012 4:17 am EST  |  Updated: 12/11/2012 8:03 am EST

“When we start looking at our older students, we see less improvement over time,” said Jack Buckley, who leads the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. That trend holds true across several exams.

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement’s PIRLS and TIMSS 2011 exams, released Tuesday, measure reading in fourth grade, and math and reading at fourth grade and eighth grade respectively. Across the board, East Asian countries occupied the upper ranks in the comparison of more than 60 world education systems, far outperforming the U.S.. Because the tests measure different groups of students from year to year, the results are best used as snapshots of performance relative to other countries at one point in time. Overall, the U.S. ranked sixth in fourth-grade reading, ninth in fourth-grade math, 12th in eighth-grade math, seventh in fourth-grade science and 13th in eighth-grade science.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the U.S. scores encouraging, but described older students’ performance as “unacceptable.”

“These new international comparisons underscore the urgency of accelerating achievement in secondary school and the need to close large and persistent achievement gaps,” Duncan said. “Learning gains in fourth grade are not being sustained in eighth grade, where mathematics and science achievement failed to measurably improve.” He said he was particularly troubled by the stagnation in eighth grade science.

In reading, American fourth graders scored 556, above the international average. The U.S. ranked sixth in reading, with five education systems — including Florida — performing better. The U.S. was one of only six countries to increase at all four tested benchmarks over 10 years.

In fourth grade math, the U.S. scored 541 — higher than the international average of 500. That was 23 points more than the U.S. score in 1995, and 12 points higher than in 2007. Eight education systems — including Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Northern Ireland, Flemish Belgium and the U.S. state of North Carolina — had significantly higher scores at that level.

In eighth grade math, the U.S. performed only nine points above the international average, netting a 509, and was outperformed by 11 education systems. But the gap between the tier of top-performing countries like Korea and Singapore over the U.S. was more than 100 points. The 2011 score for U.S. students was 17 points higher than in 1995, and no higher than in 2007.

American fourth graders on average scored 544 in science, higher than the international average of 500, ranking in the top 10 of all participating systems. Six nations, including Korea, Singapore and Finland, had higher averages. U.S. fourth graders in 2011 performed no higher than fourth graders in 1995 and 2007.

In eighth grade, U.S. average science scores came in at 525, higher than the international average of 500. Twelve systems, including Singapore, Chinese Taipei and the state of Massachusetts, scored higher. The 2011 U.S. score represents an increase of 12 points since 1995, and no increase since 2007.

The scores come after much hand-wringing on the part of the school reform movement, which has used international rankings to claim that America’s school system needs a serious overhaul if it wants future generations to compete in a global economy. Over the summer, StudentsFirst, the group run by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, raised eyebrows with Olympics-themed advertisements that portrayed U.S. students as flabby, failed educational Olympians that don’t measure up. The ads based that portrayal on America’s rankings on the PISA, another international exam that tests students at age 15, whose most recent administration found that out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

The TIMSS results are more favorable. “We feel positive about the results of the United States,” said Ina V.S. Mullis, executive director of the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College. “It looks like we’ve been making steady progress since 1995. We’ve been increasing results for all students, which is pretty difficult.”

But America’s poorest students aren’t doing as well. “Our most impoverished students lose ground,” said Claus von Zastrow, the chief operating officer Change the Equation, a Washington-based group that advocates for math and science education. “They were holding even with the international average in some grade levels, fourth grade, but in eighth grade, they’ve dropped below. It means they’re getting less competitive as they’re going through the school system and that’s a tragic story.”

That story might explain some of the dramatic differences between America’s performance on TIMSS and PISA. “My interpretation is it’s really sort of success in the early years, but less value gets added as students grow older,” Andreas Schleicher, who administers the PISA exam for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, told The Huffington Post. “Every year of schooling adds less value.”

It’s unclear why that may be. Schleicher hypothesized that some strategies the U.S. has for education, such as “a prescriptive program of teaching,” work better in earlier grades. “As you move to later years of schooling, you require more student engagement,” he said. As a counter-example, he pointed to Finland, whose students do not fare quite as well in the earlier years as they do in high school. The backwards learning curve in the U.S., he said, matters because “the earnings gap between the lower-skilled and the better-skilled is widening.”

The reports also looked at the context of these scores, and found high correlations between students in homes that play math and reading games with advanced fourth grade achievement. It also found that students who report being bullied score lower, and reaffirmed that students from poorer backgrounds do not perform as well as peers.

International Tests Show East Asian Students Outperform World As U.S. Holds Steady.

Siemens Foundation Honors White House Science Director Dr. John P. Holdren With 2012 Founder’s Award – PR Newswire – The Sacramento Bee

/PRNewswire/ — The Siemens Foundation, a national leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, has named Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the recipient of its 2012 Siemens Foundation Founder’s Award.  The annual award recognizes outstanding individuals for encouraging students to engage in STEM subjects.

Dr. Holdren will be honored at the 2012 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology National Recognition Gala on Monday evening, December 3, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington.  The Gala celebrates six individuals and six teams who have distinguished themselves as National Finalists in the nation’s premier research competition for high school students.  This year’s 19 finalists have contributed innovative research projects addressing global challenges ranging from cancer and brain disorders to infectious diseases.  The National Finalists are competing for a total of $500,000 in college scholarships, including two top prizes of $100,000.

“The Siemens Foundation is honored to recognize Dr. Holdren for his outstanding efforts to increase student engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Thomas N. McCausland, Chairman of the Board, Siemens Foundation.  “His contributions through such initiatives as the White House Science Fair have sent a strong signal to students, parents and teachers nationwide that participating in STEM subjects is a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor.”

“I am grateful for this recognition, but the really good news is that STEM education is not just a priority of mine—it is a deep and abiding priority of President Obama,” said Dr. Holdren. “I can assure you that this Administration will continue to work tirelessly in collaboration with corporations, academia, nonprofits, and others in order to support and inspire our Nation’s STEM students and teachers.”

Trained in aerospace engineering and theoretical plasma physics at MIT and Stanford, Dr. Holdren is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as a foreign member of the Royal Society of London and a former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was a professor in both the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard, as well as Director of the Woods Hole Research Center. From 1973 to 1996 he was on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, where he co-founded and co-led the interdisciplinary graduate-degree program in energy and resources.

The Siemens Foundation Founder’s Award was established in 2004 in honor of Albert Hoser, the founder and Chairman emeritus of the Siemens Foundation. Mr. Hoser established the Foundation in July 1998 to promote and support science and mathematics education in the United States.  Previously, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Siemens Corporation.

Previous recipients of the Siemens Foundation Founder’s Award include Dr. Terrence Bissoondial, a biological research teacher at George W. Hewlett High School in Hewlett, New York.  Dr. Bissoondial is the mentor of one of this year’s National Finalist teams:  Jeremy Appelbaum, William Gil and Allen Shin.  The keynote speaker at this year’s National Recognition Gala is Leland D. Melvin, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education.

The Siemens Competition Launched in 1998, the Siemens Competition is the nation’s premier science research competition for high school students.  2,255 students registered to enter the Siemens Competition this year for a total 1,504 projects submitted.  323 students were named semifinalists and 93 were named regional finalists, representing 25 states.  Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists at six leading research universities which host the regional competitions:  California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Notre Dame and The University of Texas at Austin.

Follow us on the road to the Siemens Competition:  Follow us on Twitter @SFoundation(#SiemensComp) and like us on Facebook at SiemensFoundation.  Then visit www.siemens-foundation.org at 9:30am EST on December 4 for a live webcast of the National Finalist Awards Presentation.

The Siemens Foundation The Siemens Foundation provides more than $7 million annually in support of educational initiatives in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Its signature programs include the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, and The Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, which encourages K-12 students to develop innovative green solutions for environmental issues.  By supporting outstanding students today, and recognizing the teachers and schools that inspire their excellence, the Foundation helps nurture tomorrow’s scientists and engineers.  The Foundation’s mission is based on the culture of innovation, research and educational support that is the hallmark of Siemens’ U.S. companies and its parent company,Siemens AG.  For more information, visit www.siemens-foundation.org.

SOURCE Siemens Foundation

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/03/5027671/siemens-foundation-honors-white.html#storylink=cpy


Siemens Foundation Honors White House Science Director Dr. John P. Holdren With 2012 Founder’s Award – PR Newswire – The Sacramento Bee.

Curious George Helping To Bridge The STEM Education Gap In Preschool: Study (HuffPo)

A recent study of the popular children’s program Curious George found that the series’ television episodes and TV tie-in books positively impacted young children’s knowledge of the science and math concepts covered, as well as enabled parents to become more comfortable helping their children understand those subjects.

The total sample size for the study was 155 families, each with at least one child who was 4 or 5 years of age. The proportion of racial and ethnic groups in the sample mirrored the proportion of racial and ethnic groups currently living in the U.S., and more than half of the families — 61 percent — reported that their household financial situation was about the same as the average family.

The families, which represented 31 states, were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the book group, the television group or the control group.

After families in the book group had an opportunity to read the Curious Georgebooks, the preschool child and one parent within each family completed a survey together to assess their understanding of the STEM concepts that were presented in the books. The same survey was administered to the control group, who did not read the books.

The process was repeated for the television group, who, after completing the survey, also read a set of books together that were tied to the episodes in order to reinforce the concepts that were introduced.

The survey responses were then compared, and indicated that children who watched the show and read the books demonstrated significantly better knowledge of measurement, hibernation, colors, weather, buoyancy, sound, sorting and plant life than children who did not read or watch.

Additionally, an overwhelming majority of parents whose children interacted withCurious George in some capacity reported that the program helped them feel more confident in their abilities to help their children learn about science and math. They also said their children were inspired to try other scientific activities at home, and to make predictions, observe, ask questions and hypothesize.

Some parents reported the Curious George resources motivated their children to try to learn to read, and were similarly inspired to make more visits to a library than parents who did not engage with the materials.

The Curious George educational impact evaluation comes on the heels of a brief that urges policymakers toinvest in high-quality preschool education, citing its universally acknowledged economic and social benefits. High-quality, intensive preschool education for at least two years has been found to close as much as half the achievement gap.

Curious George Helping To Bridge The STEM Education Gap In Preschool: Study.

National Letter to American Parents Urges Increased Emphasis on STEM Education – Higher Education

by Ronald Roach

STEM Education

Norman Augustine, center, noted that too many women and minorities have been and are discouraged from pursuing science and engineering.

WASHINGTON — One might expect a Washington think tank that studies the presidency and the Congress to prevail upon those federal government branches to arrest declining educational achievement by American schoolchildren. In an effort partly intended to draw attention to the failing effort of government to reverse national educational achievement decline, the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress has issued a public letter to American parents, urging their greater involvement in K-12 education and encouraging them to apply pressure on policymakers to improve science and math instruction in the U.S.

At a Thursday news discussion meeting, the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress (CPSC) presented “A Letter on STEM Education to America’s Parents” as an appeal to spur parents to help improve prospects for the global economic competitiveness of the current generation of American children.

Authored by the CPSC’s Committee on K-12 Education, the letter says the committee focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education “not because other fields are unimportant, but rather because excellence in STEM will to a large degree form the basis of our children’s ability to obtain jobs; to defend themselves in a dangerous world; and to live healthy, happy, rewarding lives.” Twenty-four national experts on education and workforce issues served on the CPSC committee.

The letter identifies 10 recommendations specifying actions that individual parents can take “to improve the education of your child and children across the country.”

In grappling with the economic competitiveness issue, one recommendation asks parents to speak to their children about “the important connection between education and training and their lifelong standard of living.”

“Help them to understand that hard work in the classroom and involvement in afterschool STEM programs will pay off in terms of greater career opportunities and higher pay,” the letter says.

Norman Augustine, co-chair of the CPSC committee, cited studies “that show between 50 and 85 percent of the growth in American GDP in recent decades is directly attributed to advancements in science and technology.”

“Furthermore, only about 5 percent of the workforce is engaged in science and engineering. The select 5 percent disproportionately creates jobs for others,” said Augustine, a retired chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corp. and a former undersecretary of the U.S. Army.

Augustine noted that too many women and minorities have been and are discouraged from pursuing science and engineering due to a lack of social support and inadequate educational opportunities to help them succeed at the collegiate level.

Former Colorado Gov. and CPSC committee co-chair Roy Romer focused his remarks on the letter’s recommendations on the opportunities presented by the recent adoptions of a Common Core Curriculum in some subjects by 46 states. The letter recommends that parents “demand that (their) state’s leaders fully adopt that (Common Core) curriculum or a more rigorous one and expand it into other academic disciplines. Parents are also urged to use local PTA and school board meetings to see that “standards accompanying the Common Core Curriculum be adopted and that they are not watered down.”

“This is a phenomenally new event in America. If we’re going to unify America on this issue of standards, it can’t have the label of federal. It will kill it. It’s got to have state as the label,” Romer said. “States have collaboratively agreed … and are now developing a test structure. That’s (in) language arts and math. Science standards are coming along in a different format.”

Attendees at the news discussion meeting represented a wide range of STEM advocacy groups, university centers, and federal agencies. Dwight Carr, STEM program manager at the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University, told the CPSC committee co-chairs that the national letter to parents is much needed and timely. He mentioned that the Applied Physics Laboratory, which is based in Laurel, Md., is hosting the first-ever Parent STEMpowerment Workshop this Saturday, which is “geared to help parents of middle school students prepare their children for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.”

“I think [the CPSC letter is] a good first step. …You do have parents [as another audience member alluded to] who really care, but are economically disadvantaged. They aren’t necessarily sure who to contact, or how to mobilize other parents in their community. (The letter) gives those parents a tool,” Carr said.

The news briefing was held at the headquarters of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Shirley Malcom, the head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs at AAAS, moderated the discussion session.

The CPSC letter can be accessed here.

National Letter to American Parents Urges Increased Emphasis on STEM Education – Higher Education.

Science at its best…

Science at its best is about learning to wonder and pursue our curiosity. It teaches us to think critically about the world around us — one of the core skills named by the 21st Century Skills project as a key to success in school and beyond.

Dennis Bartels: Why We Really Need Participatory STEM Education.

-Dennis Bartels

Executive Director, Exploratorium



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