WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following full committee hearing entitled America Wins When America COMPETES: Building a High-Tech Workforce.
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Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Earlier this year, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, I met with a group of science and math teachers. We talked for hours about the work they do everyday to inspire their students. They told me why they got into their fields and why they keep at it. We also discussed what it takes to push that button in each student, to give him or her the skills to thrive for a lifetime. It gave me tremendous hope. Not just because I know those students are getting a great education, but also because we’re making a powerful investment in our nation’s future.
When The America COMPETES Act became law in 2007, we were making a commitment to STEM, the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. America’s place as a global leader in those areas was at risk and we could not afford to fall behind. The Act established several new education programs at the National Science Foundation, and Departments of Energy and Education, and it boosted funding for existing programs such as the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship.
I worked with Congressman Sherry Boehlert back in 2002 to get this program enacted and provide scholarships for science, math and engineering students to become K-12 math and science teachers. Since it was signed into law, this program has supported the funding for about 7,700 teachers who will reach students in some of the highest-need school districts across the country. Programs like these are long-term investments – and they pay incredible dividends. A world-class STEM workforce is fundamental to addressing the challenges of the 21st century—from developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil to discovering cures for diseases.
Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that over 80 percent of the fastest-growing occupations depend on knowledge of mathematics and science. The National Science Board reported this year that although the Unites States continues to lead the world in science and engineering – other countries are closing the gap by increasing their own investments in research, infrastructure, and education.
With America COMPETES we planted the seeds of something very powerful, but we have to nurture the investment if we want to reap its benefits. The authorizations in that legislation expire this year and, as we look toward reauthorization, we need to evaluate our progress.
In March, the Committee heard from the heads of several government agencies who echoed the long-term value of these investments. With today’s hearing, I am excited to hear from the incredible people who are actually making good on STEM’s great promise.
Susan Naylor here today from Wood County, West Virginia, was among those teachers I spoke with in Parkersburg. She works everyday where the rubber meets the road, and I hope she will speak about the challenges of implementation. So will Dr. Jim Gates, a physics professor at the University of Maryland, who has his own STEM story and now inspires a new generation of scientists. These are practitioners and we have a lot to learn from them about what works and what does not.
I also want to welcome our other impressive witnesses and thank them for sharing their experiences today. David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis President and Director of the Museum of Science Boston and Founding Director of the National Center for Technological Literacy, and Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative and former Assistant Secretary of Education for Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.
We have to work together to support STEM disciplines at school of course, but we also must make sure our students are getting the same support at home, in our communities, and from the media. This is incredibly important – it’s an investment in our community and our country’s future. And if we get it right, the rewards will be enormous.
Senator Kay Bailey HutchisonU.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee
STATEMENT OF SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
FULL COMMITTEE HEARING: AMERICA WINS WHEN AMERICA COMPETES: BUILDING A HIGH-TECH WORKFORCE
May 6, 2010
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today. I want to welcome our witnesses, each of whom plays an important role in encouraging young minds to pursue coursework and experiences that will position them to be the best minds available to work on science, engineering, math, and technology in the future.
Science and technology are at the core of America’s ability to compete in an increasingly globalized economy and to solving many of the challenges we face as a nation in energy independence, biotechnology, and healthcare.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education, or STEM education, plays an essential role in fostering further development of the 21st Century’s innovation-based economy. Several recent studies caution, however, that a danger exists that Americans may not know enough about the STEM fields to significantly contribute to, or benefit fully from, the knowledge-based society that is taking shape around us.
In my home state of Texas, only 41 percent of the high school graduates are ready for college-level math (algebra), and only 24 percent are ready for college-level science (biology). Furthermore, only 2 percent of all U.S. 9th-grade boys and 1 percent of girls will go on to attain an undergraduate science or engineering degree.
In contrast to these troubling numbers Mr. Chairman, 42% of all college undergraduates in China earn science or engineering degrees.
As nations like China and India invest strategically in STEM education for their citizens, the United States must assess whether its education system can meet the demands of the 21st Century. If we fail to address these challenges we risk compromising the development of the next generation of American scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians, making it more difficult to address persistent national problems.
I believe that a solid foundation for a scientifically literate workforce begins with developing outstanding K-12 teachers in science and mathematics. Unfortunately, today there is such a shortage of highly qualified K-12 teachers that many of the nation’s school districts have hired uncertified or under qualified teachers.
Statistics also demonstrate that a large percentage of middle and high school mathematics and science teachers are teaching outside their own primary fields of study.
While a United States’ high school student has a 70% likelihood of being taught English by a teacher with a degree in English, that high school student has only about a 40% chance of studying chemistry with a teacher who was a chemistry major.
Those statistics are unacceptable and they are also unnecessary. We can and must do better and I believe we should use this reauthorization process to encourage programs that increase the number of teachers in STEM fields certified to teach in those areas.
I am pleased that Texas has been a leader in this area and has a model program that combats this problem by effectively combining undergraduate degrees in the STEM fields with teacher certification.
Beginning in 1997, the UTeach program has become the national benchmark for teaching excellence and has been mentioned in several high profile reports including the National Academies’ “Rising above the Gathering Storm” report.
I plan to introduce legislation soon that will create a grant program to allow colleges and universities to adopt the UTeach program to recruit and prepare students who major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics to become certified as elementary and secondary school teachers. I hope as we move forward this can be included in the America COMPETES Act reauthorization.
In addition to increasing the number of certified teachers in STEM fields, I believe that improving the K-12 curricula in the STEM fields is essential because domestic and world economies increasingly depend on these areas of knowledge. Unfortunately, primary and secondary schools frequently fail to produce enough students with the interest, motivation, knowledge, and skills they will need to succeed in the 21st Century’s global economy.
I think we can make America even more competitive and innovative than it is today. We can and we must.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. David ZaslavPresident and Chief Executive OfficerDiscovery Communications
Ms. Susan NaylorMathematics Instructional CoachWood County Schools
Dr. S. James Gates Jr.John S. Toll Professor of PhysicsDepartment of Physics, University of Maryland
Dr. Ioannis MiaoulisPresident and Director, Museum of Science, BostonFounding Director, National Center for Technological Literacy
Mr. Tom LuceChief Executive OfficerNational Math and Science Initiative