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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - NSF Director Appears before House Science Committee on K-12 Science and Math Education

March 30, 2006

On Thursday, March 30, 2006, Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director of NSF, testified before the House Science Committee at a hearing examining how federal agencies can improve their individual and collective efforts to strengthen K-12 science and math education.

Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) opened the hearing by expressing his support for the President's American Competitiveness Initiative's (ACI), in particular its focus on improving STEM education and promoting domestic innovation and economic productivity. He referred to the ACI as 'a bold and ambitious approach' but registered his concern regarding its exclusion of NSF education programs.

He said, "Decreasing the role of NSF in education seems very shortsighted when we are currently facing the challenge of adequately preparing our students to enter science and technology fields." Boehlert also commented that it was imperative that the agencies work together on STEM education--both acknowledging common goals and leveraging limited resources.

Department of Education Secretary and Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC) Chair Margaret Spellings appeared as the first witness. The Department of Education shares primary responsibility for science and math education with NSF.

Bement next described the Foundation's various education programs, including a realignment of the Education and Human Resources Directorate to include a Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings. He also spoke of NSF's new 2007 effort, called Discovery Research K-12. The program will focus on developing effective math and science assessments; improving science teaching and learning; and introduce cutting-edge discoveries into classrooms.

Bement also cited success stories stemming from several NSF-supported programs, including the Robert Noyce Scholarship, the Math and Science Partnership, the Master Science Educators, and the Science Education for Public Understanding Programs.

Other witnesses included Shana Dale, Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; Brigadier General John Kelly, Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Dr. James Decker, Principal Deputy Director of the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Decker's testimony noted example achievements of joint DOE and NSF programs. "Our collaboration with NSF in various programs is especially productive and effective in bringing students from NSF funded programs to our National Laboratories; strengthening transfer of teacher research experiences to classrooms; curriculum development that strengthens our mission; and increasing science literacy," he said.

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