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The Opportunity Equation--Science and Math in Crisis

What kind of schools and systems of education does America need to transform mathematics and science education and deliver it equitably and with excellence to all students?
That's the focal question of a new report, entitled "The Opportunity Equation," from the Carnegie Institute's Center for Advanced Studies Commission on Math and Science Education, just released. Skip what I have to say about it and go read the full report yourself, or stay with me here for a minute then pop back up here and go read the full report.

It's clear we're in crisis, as the review from the National Science Teachers Association cites in some very frank and, errrm, stimulating language: From Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “'We’ve had 50 states doing their own thing,” and the education system has been “lying to parents” about their children’s readiness for college and careers.'" And “'Great teachers matter” in helping children in these schools succeed, he observed. America needs to find ways to reward teacher excellence—perhaps via stimulus funds.'"

More frank talk from a former North Carolina governor: "Informing parents about the state of science and math education and getting them to “raise hell about it” was former North Carolina Governor James Hunt’s suggestion. The Opportunity Equation contains the results of a national poll of students and parents that showed most don’t think it’s important for students to do well in science or math unless they are pursuing careers in those fields."

Of course you know where I'm going with this, and it's summed up by one paragraph in The Opportunity Equation. Listen up:

For today’s students, math and science also open the door to understanding new technologies—a realm of interest that is crucial to our collective economic future but whose value has yet to be fully tapped by our educational system. Outside the classroom, evidence abounds that new media are powerful vehicles for motivating young people, capturing their imaginations, and inspiring them to strive for mastery. In its 2008 report Fostering Learning in a Networked World, the National Science Foundation Task Force on Cyberlearning acknowledges that educational technology has not yet had the profound impact on American schools that has long been anticipated, but the Task Force also argues that “cyberlearning has reached a turning point where learning payoffs can be accelerated.”. If so, the potential for offering students new and motivating avenues to build science, math, engineering, and technology knowledge is great.
We need to re-envision the way we teach our students and the ways in which we motivate them to learn. If schools can't do that, and I'm talking about our finest independent schools as well as our struggling public school systems, we are in more trouble than even the direst pessimists predict. It's time for a model vision. Who can outline that? Who volunteers? Is it Education Secretary Arne Duncan? Is it our President? Is it us?

I'd submit it should be the last. It should be us. This of course is informed by my sometimes absurdly robust dalliance in things Web 2.0, my commitment to Distance Learning--both outreach and intake--and a mindset that is absolutely receptive to Steve Hargadon's recent rant about the future of education at his blog. Read "Web 2.0 is the Future of Education" at Classroom 2.0. Administrators need to be cognizant of these discussions, participate in them, and begin to assume a welcoming attitude toward innovation and change, not a resistant one.


Lucy Gray said…
Hey Scott -

I just posted a quote to my blog from a Futurelab report that essentially says teachers need to make the change happen with these tools before the change happens to them and they relinquish control. I think this goes hand in hand with what you are saying; it should be up to us.

The funny thing is... and I hate to say this, but... outside of my ed tech world, I see very few teachers truly trying to change things up. They are woriking hard; don't get me wrong. They are working hard teaching the status quo. Steve H. argues that Web 2.0 will have a societal impact greater than the printing press, but I think the average American is yet to have that aha moment when they realize the powers of these new techologies. I don't know why exactly and I think that things are happening (i.e Twitter), but we still have a very long way to go. To keep it in perspective, the 13,000 people attending NECC are a drop in the bucket.

I'd like to see more research in this area, specifically on attitudes around professional engagement in the teaching profession.

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