NSF & Congress
Hearing Summary: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee of Science
Reviewing Science, Math, Engineering and Technology Education in Kindergarten Through 12th Grade and H.R.
4272, The National Science Education Enhancement Act
June 13, 2000
On June 13, 2000, the Science Committee held a hearing
on the "National Science Education Enhancement Act"
(H.R. 4272), introduced by Representative Vernon J.
Ehlers (R-MI). Witnesses included Dr. Len Simutis,
Director, Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics
and Science Education, Ohio State University; Dr.
Diane M. Bunce, Associate Professor, Chemistry Department,
Catholic University of America; Dr. Audrey Champagne,
Professor of Chemistry & Science Education, State
University of New York at Albany; and Dr. Janice M.
Gruendel, Executive Director, Connecticut Voices for
In his opening remarks, Mr. Ehlers noted that it is
important to enhance professional development for
science education teachers by establishing effective
training and retention programs. This will, in turn,
improve educational opportunities for students as
they become more interested in science, math, engineering
While all witnesses agreed that mentoring programs
for teachers are crucial in order to achieve optimal
balance between content and pedagogy, Dr. Simutis
stressed the importance of providing educators technology-based
professional development resources.
Dr. Bunce recommended that summer mentoring activities
be linked with the Master Teacher program proposed
in H.R. 4271. Linking summer institutes to university
degree programs and developing short-term workshops
affiliated with institutes would allow teachers to
earn college credit. This also motivates teacher's
participation by building confidence and encouraging
them to get involved in long-term academic programs.
She also expressed her support for the After-School
Science Day Care provision for its innovative approach
to teaching science.
Dr. Champagne noted that participation of all teachers
can be achieved only if continuing education is an
integral part of teacher's work year and workday.
Equal emphasis on understanding science principles
and effective means of teaching those principles will
supply the nation's youth with teachers who can provide
an opportunity to learn science well. She also spoke
about the NSF Centers for Learning and Teaching as
models for pre-and in-service education to science
teachers. This center incorporates both the science
education and science department, which maintain close
ties and bring the most recent research to education.
Dr. Gruendel emphasized that although the United States
leads in technology development, our education system
results in too few scientists. She said that resource
allocations are not sufficient to meet the changing
demands of the current technology based economy. Valuable
and necessary training can be obtained through community
service and work-study programs she said, and in these
environments students learn to apply fundamental skills
to problem solving in the real world.
Rep. Ehlers questioned witnesses on how to best implement
effective measures to enhance teacher professional
development, and how to implement follow-up education
programs. Dr. Bunce responded by emphasizing the importance
of constantly training teachers so they could develop
a higher order of thinking. She also mentioned that
the main reasons for teachers not attending summer
workshops are family obligations during the summer
and embarrassment over poor college preparation.
Dr. Bunce noted the importance of funding programs
for both NSF and the Department of Education (DOED).
She emphasized that they answer to two different constituencies.
When teachers are learning about the process of requesting
funding they first go to DOED she said, but when they
know how to request money for their research they
Rep. Jackson then asked about ensuring continued training
for teachers. Dr. Simutis responded that we need to
understand the most effective way to train teachers.
We can look to industry for an example--they tend
to provide and give expertise constantly throughout
an employee's tenure.
*Members Present, Republicans: James F. Sensenbrenner
Jr. (WI), Chairman; Sherwood Boehlert (NY), Connie
A. Morella (MD), Ken Calvert (CA), Nick Smith (MI),
Judy Biggert (IL). Democrats: James Barcia (MI), Eddie
Bernice Johnson (TX), Lynn Rivers (MI), Sheila Jackson
Lee (TX), Bob Etheridge (NC), John B. Larson (CT),
David Wu (OR), Dennis Moore (KS).