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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: Math and Science Teachers Testify before House Committee on Science

March 20, 2002

Award-winning teachers tell Members of Congress effective teaching requires the recruitment of more math and science majors into teaching, continued content-based professional development, and increased support for mentoring programs crucial to teacher retention in the first five years.

The House Committee on Science held this hearing to honor winners of the National Science Foundation's prestigious 2001 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Witnesses provided the elementary, secondary, as well as rural education perspective on the challenges and rewards of teaching math and science. Chairman Boehlert commended the teachers for their awards and asked how the federal government could help them do their jobs better.

Susan Kelb, a teacher at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor, Michigan said one step the federal government could take to improve teaching is to do away with standardized testing, as it does not test for reasoning and problem solving. She further stated that grants should be given to top math and science students to serve as teachers, and then support them in the pursuit of teaching certificates. Federal money is also useful for professional development, she said, stating that NSF should pick up where the Eisenhower grants left off.

Jana Darece Rowland, a teacher at Hydro-Eakly Elementary School in Hydro, Oklahoma, a rural elementary school, said we must build a strong foundation in math and science at the elementary level, and that the transient nature of our society and lack of funds is a problem. She noted that in other countries, like Japan, teachers are treated as professionals, whereas here they are not. She said NSF programs such as PAEMST are important because they encourage teachers to strive for excellence. She stated that one thing the federal government can do is to fund regional science resources centers, as teachers in rural areas struggle to find the resources they need.

Bill Schrandt, a teacher at Valley High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico credited various NSF grants for his teaching success. Mr. Schrandt outlined improvements needed for and barriers that exist to effective teaching. He called for rigorous promotion of education and the role of teachers; the need to expand professional development opportunities with programs such as those offered by NSF; and the need to attract, prepare, and retain quality teachers.

Frances Scelsi Hess, a teacher at Cooperstown High School, Cooperstown, New York, testified that "Effective teachers need to expand their experiences beyond the classroom, provide leadership in curriculum and policy development, serve as a model for students, and support and mentor colleagues." She said the federal government could effectively improve science education by funding professional growth, development of science curricula, and the purchase of laboratory and technological equipment for science classrooms. She said competitive grant programs, such as the NSF programs from which she benefited, need to be expanded.

In answering questions from Science Committee Members, witnesses reiterated the need for mentoring programs beyond the first year of teaching, and the continued need for teacher professional development and the importance of NSF programs in this endeavor.