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Photo of Joseph Bordogna

Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Deputy Director
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation

Address to the Convening Meeting of
Philadelphia Math & Science Coalition

June 10, 2005
Philadelphia, PA

See also slide presentation.

If you're interested in reproducing any of the slides, please contact the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs: (703) 292-8070.

Good morning, and thank you, Kent1, and also a special thanks to Carol2 for this kind invitation to participate.

I'm very glad to be here today, with both old friends and "anticipated" friends, to brainstorm about a topic vital to Philadelphia's future and to the nation's. We all share a stake in raising science and mathematics achievement in our public schools--and the focus on K-12 teaching goes right to the heart of the issue. Indeed, our task has an urgency that echoes on the national scale, fueled in part by global realities.

I would like to set the stage for our discussion on teaching by sketching some broad themes. We'll achieve much more here in Philadelphia, and more rapidly, by joining forces with the best K-12 math and science investments already underway, both here and nationwide. Many of you, I know, are deeply involved in some of those flagship efforts.

Today we see a broad range of federal investments across a number of agencies--from the Department of Education to NASA to NSF and beyond--aimed at boosting science and math teaching at the K-12 level. I plan to touch specifically upon some NSF-supported efforts in that direction, a number of which are already rooted in local efforts in Philadelphia.

Linking our educational systems for mutual benefit has been a passion of mine for some years. Back in the 1970s, when I was at the University of Pennsylvania, I worked on a homegrown effort called PRIME--the Philadelphia Regional Introduction for Minorities to Engineering--as a regional model for increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities.

A number of similar programs sprang up in other states across the country at the time, and after a decade of effort we had some real successes--in fact, we thought we had solved the problem.

Ultimately, however, we discovered that government, academe and industry had to continue to partner, in order to achieve lasting change, and to make our science and engineering workforce truly representative of our nation's diversity. This is applicable today--we can succeed only through sustained partnerships, mindful that we will all benefit from the results.

[Slide 1: Vannevar Bush Quote]
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Some sixty years ago, the progenitor of the National Science Foundation, Vannevar Bush, argued in his presidential report, Science: The Endless Frontier, that "Science can be effective in the national welfare only as a member of the team." All of us here today, from the three essential sectors, private, public and academe, are stakeholders on such a team.

Each has much to contribute, and much to gain, from better enabling teachers to carry out their mission, by investing our interest in them and providing the resources they need. Our collective participation around the table today signifies the truth of Vannevar Bush's observation that "Science cannot live by and unto itself alone."

We can help empower one another to make these same connections in our local communities. "Effective engagement begins right here at home." That may sound familiar, because it's a quote from the University of Pennsylvania's new president, Amy Gutmann, from her inaugural address last fall.

She cited local-to-global engagement as one of three major principles underlying the work of the university. Her other two pillars are increased access to promote diversity, and integration of knowledge in research and teaching. Here again, the drumbeat calls for partnerships among our educational systems, our research capabilities and our businesses.

[Slide 2: Quotation from Innovate America]
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Today, more than half a century after Vannevar Bush made the case for federal investment in science for society, global competitiveness makes the case for empowering teachers ever more urgent.

The forthcoming report by the Council on Competitiveness, titled Innovate America, poses the question to our nation that I've put on the screen: "Will we plan and invest for the long term, rather than just the next quarter, putting in place the talent pool, innovation capital and infrastructure necessary for continuing success throughout the 21st century?"

The council's study, in which I participated, cites a number of large shifts that create for our nation "a unique and delicate historical juncture…an inflection point in history." The report underscores what we already know, that the capacity to innovate is our country's strength. And that capacity for continued innovation rests first upon an innovative educational system from pre-school to post-doc.

If there is any doubt, just recall the announcement two months back, when India and China declared a new "strategic partnership" on trade and technology. Such cooperation has potential for immense change on a global scale--a significance not lost on India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who commented that "India and China can together reshape the world order." Spoken about two of the world's fastest growing economies, this is not hyperbole!

We know that other nations are approaching or, in some sectors, surpassing our rate of investing in their future scientific and technical workforces. Our own S&E workforce is aging, with a quarter over 50 years old. Meanwhile, industry spends billions to educate and train workers in the skills needed in our new knowledge economy--skills they don't get in school.

[Slide 3: TIMSS and PISA]
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We're also familiar with the news from studies of how U.S. students rank in math and science internationally. In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, released last December, the U.S. ranked only in the middle of nations tested. Notably, fourth graders from Chinese Taipei, Japan and Singapore outperformed their U.S. counterparts in math and science.

In the 2003 PISA study, the Program for International Student Assessment, which tested mathematics literacy, U.S. students scored lower than those from most OECD countries.

We're here today to talk about how to reverse these negative trends. We have tremendous resources to draw upon, many efforts underway, and a diversity of creativity to tap. Indeed, if put to integrated work, the United States has a formidable competitive advantage.

[Slide 4: Cyberinfrastructure]
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An essential and growing part of any discussion of innovation and workforce needs is cyberinfrastructure. Cyberinfrastructure itself is a means to broaden participation of our citizens in science and engineering and to strengthen our nation's overall workforce.

The conduct of research is being transformed across the board not only by computing speed but by converging advances in networking, software architecture, visualization, data systems and collaborative platforms. The full suite of tools and people--hardware, software, and middleware; interdisciplinary teams and new kinds of technology professional; algorithms and applications--comprise the new cyberinfrastructure.

NSF intends its investments in cyberinfrastructure to transform research and education across the full range of communities and institutions, including K-12 classrooms.

Cyberinfrastructure connects to another capability that will define our evolving workforce, and that is cognition. Our most basic investment in cognition is our Centers for the Science of Learning. Discoveries are underway in this emerging interdiscipline that will leverage existing knowledge into insights that are startling and new. These insights will plumb greater depths than could any single approach.

NSF's vision for the science of learning, as well as our increased level of investment in this area, brings multiple perspectives to bear on a challenge that spans the scales of space and time. Learning components range from genetic to digital to societal and beyond.

Disparate fields with revolutionary new tools--information and imaging technologies among them--focus on the brain, the classroom, biosensors, data mining and language, to name just a few areas ripe for investigation.

Now we are beginning to address such questions as: How do individuals learn differently, and what accelerates or inhibits learning? How does our ability to learn change over our lifetimes? How can we sustain our ability to continue learning well?

[Slide 5: National Science Foundation Programs Aimed at Impact on Teaching]
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At NSF we have long worked to integrate research and education as two sides of the same coin. We have followed an integrative investment strategy for science and math education, stretching from kindergarten through post-doctoral level, with students and faculty in formal and informal learning settings.

In our education directorate, there is a new focus on what works, how we know it works, how it can work for a broader population, and finally, how we can improve upon current strategies.

We carry out long-term targeted investment in successful education programs over five, ten and 15 year cycles. The purpose is to test models of educational engagement over time, with differing communities.

Now we are moving to integrate research and education even more--across the board--at NSF. In fact, large NSF grants are explicitly obligated to include a K-12 component, and to address issues of broadening diversity.

Take our Earthscope project--an ambitious, $280 million geophysical probe--a geographic array of sensors to learn what makes the North American continent tick, from earthquakes, to volcanic and seismic hazards to evolution of the continent. In synch with the science being done using the array--which will cover 3,000 geographic locations across the country--students and teachers will be able to link up with a national experiment in their own backyards--thanks to cyberinfrastructure.

Another example is our proposed integrated ocean observatory network, expected to cost $470 million, and aimed to instrument the seafloor with sensors. The goal is continuous and interactive access to the seafloor. Teachers and students will see imagery of the seafloor in real time, while discovery is underway. Again, these scientific efforts can link with education in more powerful ways because they're on-line from the outset.

Today, since we are focusing on K-12 teaching, I want to discuss a few NSF ventures targeted right at giving teachers better support, tools and integration with the realm of research. I'll preface these details with a deeply felt observation: All our efforts should contribute to raising the dignity of teachers, strengthening the realization that a school teacher's value is on par with a winner of a Nobel Prize.

We need to eliminate the divide between K-12 teachers, and college and university faculty. We need to move toward recognizing the entire spectrum of educational professionals as faculty. Early learning is as important to individual development, and to long-term social progress, as is a higher degree. We will only be able to design seamless learning paths for students when we recognize our common ground as faculty in a seamless educational community.

I am handing out a list of some specific NSF programs that are designed to have impact on K-12 teaching. You'll be familiar with some of them. In discussing a few of the programs I'd like to suggest that much is already happening out in the field that is decidedly not business-as-usual. Some in Philadelphia are already capitalizing on this momentum, but we can do much more.

On the first page, our Centers for Learning and Teaching aim to enrich and diversify the national infrastructure for science and math education in K-12 and beyond. Each center adopts a specific thematic focus. The center in the Philadelphia area--the Metro Math Center of Learning and Teaching--includes several universities and several public school systems, including Philadelphia public schools.

The center works to improve urban students' understanding of math through developing new instructional strategies and by connecting schools with community resources. One feature is 80-hour institutes for urban teachers in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, here in Philadelphia.

On the second page, I highlight the Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education--GK-12 for short. In this program, graduate students work in schools alongside teachers, developing their own teaching skills while enriching K-12 math and science. A long-term payoff is the permanent partnerships that form between schools and universities.

Here in Philadelphia, in fact, Dennis DeTurck helps to lead a local GK-12 program called ACCESS Science, a partnership between Penn and local schools, now in its sixth year.

GK-12, now an established fellowship for graduate students, takes the concept of linking teachers to graduate study across all the disciplines that NSF supports. The partnership between grad student and teacher develops naturally, as they work together and develop a collegial trust. Such personal ties should ultimately persist as collaborations between the institutions.

Turning to page 4 of the handout, I'd like to point out the Math and Science Partnerships, a major national effort to improve K-12 student achievement. The Greater Philadelphia MSP is sponsored by LaSalle University. It addresses the improvement of secondary mathematics and science and focuses on linkages between schools and universities, within a large and sprawling metropolitan area encompassing hundreds of school districts and dozens of institutions of higher education.

The last program I want to highlight is the last on the handout: Research Experiences for Teachers. In this particular program, teachers work with engineering researchers in laboratories.

Teachers also travel with scientific teams to Antarctica and the Arctic to participate in field research. These programs work right out of the research directorates.

Moving on, I'll mention one more NSF venture not on this handout, but very much a part of the comprehensive picture for K-12 teaching. Our Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation--we call it LSAMP--are enriching our pool of science and engineering talent from underrepresented groups across the nation. This program targets a key factor in building future science and engineering workforce and operates nationally.

In this region, for example, the LSAMP alliance has helped more than 500 minority students earn bachelors of science degrees each year for the past five years. Some of these students are now working on their PhDs. In fact, the alliances and K-12 have multiple connections. For one, the research and teaching professions need to fully reflect our national diversity--to provide leaders and role models for our entire population.

I hope this selective survey has given some flavor of the work already underway to assist teachers in their work. Let me summarize by underscoring that establishing a coalition is the only way we will succeed--a coalition that taps into the efforts already underway at the frontiers of education and research, and that is a true partnership, a collaboration, among our complementary institutions represented here today. You will come up with your own way of making it work here in Philadelphia. I look forward to seeing this partnership soar.

1 Kent McGuire, Dean of Temple University's College of Education.
Return to speech.

2 Carol Fixman, Exec. Director, Philadelphia Education Fund.
Return to speech.

Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.


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