he Nation’s concern for excellence in K-12 and undergraduate teaching and learning environments is magnified by time: it takes time for any system and the organizations within it to adapt to emerging needs and mounting pressures. We cannot expect instant results.
While the national education goals set by the governors in 1989 will not be realized on the envisioned timetable, the momentum for lifting student performance is unquestioned. Today we take as axiomatic that improved student performance will be short-lived if the conditions for schooling do not change. “To have any real effect, standards must be incorporated into the life of the school: They must be embraced by the students who must learn them, and embraced by the business community and colleges who must make informed decisions about whom to invite into their ranks.” 39 The key to energizing education systems throughout the Nation is consensus on content standards for the teaching and learning of mathematics and science. This leaves much room for choice and diversity of process and pedagogy, while reinforcing a common market of demand for the skills that will dominate the 21st century workplace.
Through recommendations for implementing content-based materials, teaching, college admissions, and other practices informed by research, the National Science Board affirms that there is no greater national need than equipping the next generation with the tools of the workplace and citizenship. This will require a greater consensus among stakeholders on the content of K-16 teaching and learning. High expectations will not suffice in raising achievement in mathematics and science; neither will a single-minded emphasis on teachers, curriculum, assessment, or technology.
A generation ago, the NSB Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology advised: “Our children are the most important asset of our country; they deserve at least the heritage that was passed to us ... a level ofmathematics, science and technology education that is the finest in the world, without sacrificing the American birthright of personal choice, equity and opportunity.” 40
The health of science and engineering tomorrow depends on improved mathematics and science preparation of our students today. The national interest is now a national imperative. We must see educational excellence as a shared responsibility and, above all, a tractable challenge to us all.