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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
TIMSS-R Benchmarking Report
Press Conference
National Press Club

April 4, 2001

Secretary Paige, Dean Mary Brabeck, Drs. Ina Mullis and Michael Martin, my colleagues on the podium with me, Gordon Ambach and Michael Casserly, friends and guests...good morning and thank you for your dedication to this important cause, the education of our children.

It's my pleasure to represent the National Science Foundation here this morning. NSF joined the Department of Education in supporting the TIMSS-R study because the findings provide a guide to accomplish our overall mission of promoting progress in science and engineering, and excellence in mathematics and science education. Today's results paint a more detailed picture of America's math and science education landscape than before and provide us with signposts for areas of future investment and improvement.

First, let me congratulate the 27 states, districts and consortia that volunteered to take part in the TIMSS-R benchmarking survey. Some wanted the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of their approaches; others ran the risk of an unflattering portrayal; all wanted to know where they stood and to try to understand why. Their courage and dedication speak volumes about their commitment towards providing a world-class education for all students. These findings constitute valuable data--the kind that are so necessary to improve schooling and secure the future of our nation.

Since our inception 50 years ago, NSF has dedicated our investments in research and education for the benefit of our nation. In fact, NSF's vision statement speaks to this mandate: "Enabling the nation's future through discovery, learning, and innovation." We invest in people, to develop both the science and engineering workforce and a well-prepared citizenry. NSF has a long-standing commitment to excellence in K-12 math and science education.

Today's results confirm that there is high student achievement in science and mathematics in the United States. This is good news. However, we also see that many of our students are performing below the international average. The broad range of performance of our eighth graders in math and science is unacceptable. It is imperative that all children be well versed in science and mathematics to be successful in today's technology-based society.

President Bush is to be commended for declaring education an urgent national priority and for recognizing the importance of math and science education in particular. I am pleased that the President's budget has designated NSF to lead the Math and Science Partnership element of his education initiative. NSF has made considerable investments in improving K-12 education through partnerships. We look forward to working with Secretary Paige, the Department of Education, the Administration and Congress as this vital effort moves to a new level of intensity and visibility.

The implications of the benchmarking results support the direction of President Bush's math and science partnership--improving teacher quality and implementing more rigorous curricula and assessment. The nationwide variability of student achievement, teacher quality and curricula shown in today's results means that partnerships must target local needs. We at NSF recognize the value of partnerships, particularly those among K-12 and higher education. They have enriched our programs for education systemic reform, teacher preparation and professional development.

I have personally encouraged partnerships though NSF's GK-12 program, which brings young scientists into elementary and secondary classrooms. NSF has just made a second round of GK-12 awards, and there are now 56 of these university-K-12 partnerships nationwide.

The TIMSS-R benchmarking data will be used over the next few years to illuminate issues and trends in the teaching of mathematics and science. This type of careful, on-going research is essential for guiding us all to the wisest investments for our nation's future.

If we allow all of our children to realize their full potential, then our nation will remain a leader. Thank you.



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