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The "New" Obama-Biden Educational Plan

Recently, I was e-mailed a copy of the Barack Obama and Joe Biden Plan for Lifelong Success through Education. Designed to change what needs to be changed, the priorities are:

  • Reform No Child Left Behind (by improving assessment and accountability systems)
  • Ensure access to high-quality early childhood education programs and child care opportunities so they enter kindergarten ready to learn
  • Work to recruit well-qualified teachers to every classroom in America, especially those in high-poverty, high-minority areas (include 40,000 "service" scholarships of $25,000 as incentives)
  • Reward expert, accomplished teachers for taking on challenging assignments and helping children succeed (includes special career ladder initiative to reward veteran teachers in coaching situations)
  • Support highly-competent principals and school leaders
  • Make science and math education a national priority
  • Reduce the high school dropout rate by focusing on proven methods to improve student achievement and enhance graduation and higher education opportunities
  • Close the achievement gap and invest in what works
  • Empower parents to raise healthy and successful children by taking a greater role in their child’s education at home and at school
Mathematics Education Specifics
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, the first orbiting launch into space. In 1957, the beginning of the space age sparked an explosion of the attention to the development of American scientists who would work to further America’s place as a leader in the sciences and the global economy. And yet, fifty years after Sputnik, science and math education is in a crisis in all American schools. As the Gathering Storm report concluded, “danger exists that Americans may not know enough about science, technology, or mathematics to contribute significantly to, or fully benefit from, the knowledge-based economy that is already taking shape around us.” For example:
  • In 2003, the Program in International Student Assessment found that U.S. 15 year olds ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematics and 19th out of 40 countries in science.
  • Almost 30 percent of students in their first year of college are forced to take remedial science and math classes because they are not prepared for college-level classes.
  • A recent report shows that of students entering college with plans to major in science or engineering, less than 25 percent of underrepresented minorities graduate with a degree in that field within six years.
  • In 2000, minorities received only 14 percent of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and mathematics.
  • While employment in science, math, engineering, and technology (STEM) fields increased between 1995 and 2004 by 23 percent, the share of higher education degrees in STEM fields fell from 32 percent to 27 percent and there were declines in the number of students earning degrees in engineering.
These statistics are dismal. In the 21st Century, everyone needs to know science and math, not only to find employment, but also to be healthy and well-informed citizens. Moreover, over 80 percent of the fastest growing occupations are dependent upon a knowledge base in science and math. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will make math and science education a national priority, and provide our schools with the tools to educate 21st-Century learners.

Recruit High-Quality Math and Science Teachers: Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s Teaching Service Scholarship program will prioritize recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates. Additionally, Obama’s Teacher Residency Program can also supply teachers in these high-needs subject areas. The Obama-Biden plan to stimulate Professional Development Schools can help new science and math teachers, or veteran teacher needing to hone their skills, learn from professionals in the field. Programs such as New York City’s “Math for America” help build a community of excellent teachers to serve in these high-needs areas.

My Comments: Unfortunately, that is it as far as the plan's mention of improvements in mathematics....nothing about changes in curricular materials, professional development priorities, assessment issues, modeling quality pedagogy, or increased requirements. The report did contain mention of Enhanced Science Instruction and Improve and Prioritize Science Assessments.

So, what will happen? And, what will our roles and responsibilities be in this process of change?