A Look at President Obama’s Call for Increased Math & Science Funding

February 08, 2012

A Look at President Obama’s Call for Increased Math & Science Funding

[caption id="attachment_1063" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image courtesy of Sarunyu_foto"][/caption] As you may have noticed, there’s been a lot of buzz in the education field over the past 24 hours following the President’s call to increase funding for math and science education in 2012. While attending the White House Science Fair yesterday, President Obama renewed his commitment to investing in America’s future with a call for $80 million to support an Education Department contest aimed at improving the nation’s teacher prep programs in math and science education. His speech laid out a comprehensive plan for increasing our nation’s performance on math and science tests as well as preparing the population for the technological demands of the 21st century. Step 1: Teacher Recruitment The first (and most important) priority in the President’s plan is to focus on teacher recruitment and training in the math, science and technology fields. The $80 million proposed would go towards a Teaching Service Scholarship Program designed to encourage entrance into the field. In addition, the Teacher Residency Program will help to unite these qualified math and science teachers with the schools and the districts who so desperately need them. Step 2: Instruction and Assessment Clearly, finding qualified teachers is the first step in improving the nation’s performance in science and math, however it cannot end there. The second part of President Obama’s plan has to do with improving instruction and assessment in these areas through both intellectual and financial investment. Working alongside the states, the President’s plan will focus on integrating technology and science instruction as early as the pre-k level and subsequently improving the test points on state assessments. The President emphasized testing “higher-level skills” that include logical thinking, analyzing and interpreting data, inference and communication over the more traditional question-multiple choice answer format of many state assessments. Step 3: Investing in Technology Once the foundation has been established, it will be essential for schools to meet the growing technological demands of this century through improved infrastructure and access to the tools and materials needed to survive in the working world. This will begin with a $500 million matching fund for states aimed at bringing technology into the classroom in a systematic way. This will include the following:
  • The integration of technology into the everyday classroom experience as a means to enhance learning.
  • Turning towards technology-based assessment methods for students which will allow for more frequent assessments throughout the school year, and therefore help teachers to identify struggling students sooner.
  • Creating state-wide and nation-wide curriculum based on technology and developed with partners from private industry who more intimately understand the role that technology will play in the working world of the future.
  • Integrating technology as a means to team teach across time and space. Utilizing the World Wide Web as a means to connect teachers in different parts of the country and the world in order to more accurately engage in intercultural communication.
Implications for Tomorrow The plan that President Obama outlined yesterday parallels some of his previous education funding efforts that were defeated by Republicans in Congress concerned about the bottom line of the Federal Government in an admittedly tough fiscal time. However, as local districts gear up for 2012-2013 budget votes, the decreased funds available from the state and national level have put even more pressure on tax paying homeowners. Here in New York, a 2% tax cap set by Governor Andrew Cuomo has put many districts in the uncomfortable position of deciding not if, but which programs to cut and how big they can allow class sizes to get. Though the U.S. is clearly still in a tough spot in terms of national finances, the investment in the students of today who will become the idea leaders of tomorrow seems wise no matter how you phrase it. As the demand for technological innovation and know-how only increases, the costs of not investing in science and math education may be far more than $80 million.



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