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

Witnesses:

Mr. Norm Augustine
Retired Chairman and CEO
Lockheed Martin Corporation
Bethesda, Maryland

Dr. Thomas Magnanti
Dean
School of Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Ms. June Streckfus
Executive Director
Maryland Business Roundtable for Education
Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Nancy Songer
Professor of Science Education and Learning Technologies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Members of Congress in attendance: Reps. Van Hollen, McCollum, Kind, Kildee, McKeon (chair), Ehlers, Inglis, Osborne, Boutstany, Holt, and Davis

Opening Remarks: Chairman McKeon noted that the average starting salary for an engineer is approximately $50,000—considerably more than those in the liberal arts and business-related fields—but there is a shortage of engineers. McKeon believes that the workforce shortage is due to a shortage of students in the math, science, and engineering “pipeline.” McKeon held this hearing to discuss ways to increase the number of students entering the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) pipeline and to improve the overall quality of STEM education in light of increasing international labor competition.

McKeon also discussed experiences in his recent travels to Hong Kong and India where he observed strong national investments in K–12 and postsecondary STEM education. Paraphrasing a now ubiquitous quote from Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, McKeon said that decades ago parents told their children to eat their dinner because children in India and China were starving. Now, parents should tell children to do their homework because children in India and China are taking their jobs.

Representative Dale Kildee (D-MI), the subcommittee’s ranking member, made similar opening comments. Kildee added his opinion that the nation is in search of a new “Sputnik” to transform STEM education for both the altruistic sake of education and for the long-term economic well-being of the entire nation.

Mr. Norm Augustine, Retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation

• STEM education is needed because of the current pace of economic development.
• STEM education needs to focus on a way of thinking as well as specific content. knowledge, adding that according to Intel, 90% of the products they sell today did not exist last year.
• Once a nation’s technological “lead” is lost, it is difficult to regain.

Recommendations:

• Bring free enterprise into the K–12 system—competition between teachers, schools, and districts and pay-for-performance compensation plans.
• Recruit more women and minorities into STEM fields.
• Hire more subject matter specialists in the schools.
• Support and promote the State Scholars Program.

Dr. Thomas Magnanti, Dean, School of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

• Engineering is essential to the well-being and prosperity of our lives. Over half of our nation’s growth is result of engineering technology.
• Engineering content and practice is changing. Globalization, employment shifts, shift from wage-based competition to skill-based competition in international labor are all having an impact.
• Engineering education needs to change and improve at the K–12 level. Need to bring more technologies and more active learning (design contests). Need to broaden engineering education.
• Attract the best and brightest including women and minorities into engineering; need more engineers as leaders.

Recommendations:
• Create a K–12 engineering curriculum at K–12 level that complements science and math.
• Develop more active learning practices.
• Create and support professional engineering degree in IHE.
• Develop a National Defense Education Act for our times.
• Modify laws and policies to attract and retain international talent.

Ms. June Streckfus, Executive Director, Maryland Business Roundtable for Education

• Four main goals for the MD BRT: standards, assessment, accountability. All are under NCLB.
• Several things Maryland businesses are doing with STEM: Smaller learning communities; Partnerships between K–12 and higher education; and Maryland Scholars Program. Math and science are key components under this program, which aims to get more students to take a prescribed number of courses in high school, usually higher level courses, to become a scholar. They have a speakers’ bureau, where over 2,000 business people spoke to 9th grade students throughout the state. The program works to link achievement in school to success in life. They also sponsor a teen magazine and website. http://www.mbrt.org/scholars [Editors Note: the Maryland Scholars Program is part of the State Scholars Initiative, http://www.centerforstatescholars.org.]

Dr. Nancy Songer, Professor of Science Education and Learning Technologies, University of Michigan

• We need a new national Sputnik moment.
• Forty percent of time in today’s K–12 classrooms is taken up by standardized testing and test preparation.
• We need to counter current efforts to stop teaching curriculum prior to standardized testing and start smart testing.
• We know how students learn; we need to apply these practices to science and math; we need additional funding and successful programs as models.
• We need to marshall resources to all students
• There are excellent teachers and pockets of success; we need to expand what we know that works, and we need to get serious about it.

Questions from Members of Congress

Rep. Kildee: How do we keep good folks in public schools to teach and not go to STEM careers? Mr. Augustine said we had to make teaching more rewarding. Teachers are underpaid; make teaching a more attractive career to people will stay. Ms Songer told the Members of Congress to focus on the professionalism of teaching. It has lost its glamour. Many now perceive teaching to be not safe or rewarding. We need incentives, such as summer programs, to keep teaching attractive. Focus on the pipeline issue, keep students and teachers engaged throughout K–12.

Rep Osbourne: He was intrigued by the idea of merit pay and asked the witnesses how that system would work, particularly with teachers’ unions. Augustine replied that there is no easy way to do it, but in the long run, it is the right decision. Augustine added that teacher performance should be more than aggregate test scores and that measuring other factors would help with teacher unions. Osborne also asked how NCLB works with STEM education. Songer replied that it sets the rights goals, but has been extremely difficult to implement. Ms Strekfus said testing is important. But while testing, everything stops in the classroom. Be vigilant that too much testing does not occur.

Rep. Holt: Spoke of his work with the Glenn Commission, which focused on teaching and teachers. The recommendations from the Glenn Commission include:

• Summer institutes,
• Increase number of science and math teachers and attract and retain same,
• Improve the working environment in the schools, including mentoring programs and partnerships with business, and
• Offer incentives to remain in teaching and better salaries.

Rep Holt: Asked panelists if these recommendations still hold up. Mr. Augustine replied that the summer institutes program was very popular. He cautioned of too much involvement by the business community.

Rep. Ehlers: He noted that the Glenn Commission did good work but that he was disappointed with the results. He said he was pleased with the growing interest in STEM. He outlined several problems he sees with STEM:

Must focus on starting early with STEM in elementary classrooms. Need to get students with necessary backgrounds.
Math and science are often sequential, and it hurts students who get off track. Need more common themes throughout.
Math and science are considered “optional” particularly in early grades and in some high schools.
Many teachers don’t like these subjects, so they won’t teach them
Encourage STEM professionals to volunteer in the classrooms, talk to kids. They can have a real impact on students.
There is a cultural disposition toward women in science.

Rep. Ehlers: His recommendations included the following:

• Work with schools, foster more parent interest and involvement with science and math.
• Need more qualified and well-trained teachers.
• Need good curricula, most schools are not using it, or won’t pay for it. Many teachers don’t know how to use it.

Rep Kind: Spoke of the need to increase job opportunities in STEM fields. Introduced HR 2325 earlier in May that directs the National Science Foundation to establish a competitive grant program for institutions of higher education to enhance education and job-training opportunities in STEM fields. The grants are awarded to programs that “encourage” students to study STEM fields and enter STEM careers. With the grants, recipients must:

• Provide “financial incentives” for students to study in STEM fields, including stipends;
• Create internship programs to expose students to different fields; and
• Increase participation of underrepresented groups.

He asked witnesses what grade they would assign to how we are preparing students in STEM. Although Magnanti avoided the question, the other three witnesses gave grades ranging from C- to D, although all witnesses acknowledged that there were many individual schools at the “A” level.

Rep. Price: As a physician, Rep. Price commented that he believed there were very few topics as important today. He said that American culture does not encourage kids to get into math and science, and that we needed to identify a “spark” He asked witnesses what one or two things they would do to change the culture. Mr. Augustine said develop a public campaign that would spark interest in STEM. Mr. Magnanti said to frame an exciting future for kids with STEM. Ms. Songer said we need to get more kids into higher level math and science, and we need a seminal moment that would generate interest for kids.

More information on the hearing, including witness testimony, is available at:
http://edworkforce.house.gov/hearings/109th/21st/mathscience051905/wl051905.htm.

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