Wednesday, May 29, 2013


My testimony before the House STEM Ed Caucus staff on May 28, 2013 - 
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about the STEM Education Fund that is currently a part of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 or I-squared. 
This year marks the 30th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, a seminal report that warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity in the nation’s schools.”  Despite the report’s clarion call to dramatically improve America’s schools and maintain the country’s “slim competitive edge,” the U.S. education system is still mired in mediocrity, continually bested by those of other countries.
A mediocre education system affects the entire nation. McKinsey & Co. reported that the academic achievement gap between children in the U.S. and other countries deprived the U.S. economy of as much as $2.3 trillion in economic output in 2008. 
These economic impacts are exacerbated by an increasing scarcity of workers qualified to fill crucial positions. Consider these facts: 

  • The knowledge economy is increasingly dependent on college-educated professionals.
  •  By 2018, the economy will have created 46.8 million new jobs.[i]  Nearly two-thirds of these will require workers with at least some college education, with a slight majority of these requiring workers with a Bachelor’s degree or better.[ii] 
  • But current college completion can’t meet this need.
  •   The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2010 only 39% of non-Hispanic whites ages 25-29 had Bachelor’s degrees; the numbers were even less for African-Americans (19%) and Hispanics (14%).[iii] 
  • Economic data show that 1 million additional STEM graduates will be needed over the next decade to fill America’s economic demand – STEM-based jobs are expected to grow 17% in the next 10 years, outpacing the overall job growth of 10%.  Furthermore, national security experts are warning that the human capital shortage in math and science are threatening our cyber security, saying that filling the security manpower needs is “like trying to field a major league baseball team when there’s no T-ball team.”
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  •      Of the 426,000 middle- and high-school math and science teachers in U.S. schools, 25,000 leave the teaching profession every year.
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  •      Approximately 40% of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years of teaching.
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  •      According to a study by McKinsey & Co., the U.S. attracts most of its teachers from the bottom two-thirds of college students, with nearly half of teachers coming from the bottom third.[x]

These competencies start with college readiness.  But our students are not college ready.  Only 70% of students in public high schools graduate, and only 32% of students leave high school qualified to attend four-year colleges.  Those numbers are even worse for minorities. Only 51% of African-American students and 52% of Hispanic students graduate, and only 20% of African-American students and 16% of Hispanic students leave high school college-ready.[iv] According to Complete College America’s 2012 report, 1.7 million students entering college required at least one remedial course, which cost states and students more than $3 billion.
The vast majority of students are not college ready because they lack access to rigorous content starting in elementary school, with compounding effects as they reach high school.  ACT, in The Forgotten Middle (2008), determined that the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school.  Yet in 2009 only 12 percent of African-American students and 17 percent of Hispanic students took Algebra I before high school.[v]
To find out why some schools succeed where others do not, in 2007 McKinsey published a study of 25 of the world’s school systems, including 10 of the top performers. The experience of these top school systems suggest that three things matter most[vi]:  Getting the right people to become teachers; Developing them into effective instructors; and Ensuring the system is available to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.
Not overly complex to say – incredibly complex to implement which is why it is great to see the STEM Fund as a part of the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013. In order to solve our STEM problem, we have to invest in taking programs to scale – this problem does not get fixed by piloting programs. The investment from I-squared can further be enhanced by public – private partnerships like the National Math and Science Initiative  
In 2010, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) identified the need for an additional 100,000 math and science teachers by 2020 to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in America.[vii] Their exhaustive research on STEM education concluded that:
“To meet our needs for a STEM-capable citizenry, a STEM-proficient workforce, and future STEM experts, the Nation must focus on two complementary goals: We must prepare all students, including girls and minorities who are under-represented in these fields, to be proficient in STEM subjects.  And we must inspire all students to learn STEM and, in the process, motivate many of them to pursue STEM careers.”[viii]
America needs great teachers to achieve this prescribed level of preparation, learning, inspiration and motivation in STEM subjects. However:
·     In the crucial middle-school years, more than two-thirds of 5th-8th graders are taught math by teachers without a math degree or certification.  In 2007, approximately one-third of public middle school science teachers either did not major in science in college and/or were not certified to teach science.[ix]

Similarly, despite the frequency with which high school physics appears as a pre-requisite for STEM careers, it continues to be the area in which U.S. public schools have the greatest shortage of teachers.  According to the Task Force on Teacher Preparation in Physics, “of the approximately 3,100 teachers who are new to teaching physics each year, only about 1,100 - or 35% - have a degree in physics or physics education.”[xi]  Nearly one-third of all high school physics teachers have taken fewer than three college-level physics classes, while less than 50% of New York City public high schools even offer physics.[xii]
NMSI is rapidly expanding two programs that meet this need –  The first is NMSI’s Comprehensive AP Program which creates a college readiness culture through intense teacher training, administrative training, aggressive goals and more time on task for students. The AP program is in 462 schools in 18 states and sees first year increases of 79% and three year increase of 137% on math, science and English AP success.  Research indicates that an AP course that culminates in an AP Exam grade of three or higher has a significant, positive impact on a student’s likelihood of college success among academically comparable students.[xiii]  This is especially true for African-American and Hispanic students, who have a 28% higher likelihood of college success compared to those who did not take an AP Exam.  Unfortunately, in 2012, only 27 percent of juniors and seniors nationally took AP Exams.  And the AP participation for African-American and Hispanic students is worse – 13% and 21% respectively.  For math and science AP Exams taken in 2012, the situation is even more dire – 10% of all juniors and seniors nationally, 4 percent for African Americans and 6 percent for Hispanics.
AP Strategies (APS) was formed to offer a comprehensive solution – its elements of success are described below – to increase participation in AP coursework and successful completion of AP Exams.  The program started in 1995 with 10 high schools.  Prior to this program, these 10 schools produced a combined total of only 29 passing scores on AP math, science and English Exams by African-American and Hispanic students.  Today, there are 1,153 passing scores in the same group of schools.
Because of these unprecedented results, in 2007 NMSI selected the APS program to replicate and scale nationally. The NMSI Comprehensive AP Program transforms schools into centers for college readiness.  Today, NMSI’s program is in just 1.5% of high schools in the country but accounts for 7.4% of the country’s increase in passing AP Exams in math, science, and English.  In NMSI program schools, the average increase in AP passing scores in English, math and science is 79% in the first year – 11 times the national average – and 137% after three years, almost 6 times the national average of 24%.
The second is the UTeach program which recruits math and science majors into a program that allows them to continue their degree while at the same time earning a teaching certificate so that students get a teacher with deep content knowledge. The UTeach program is in 35 Universities with over 6,200 enrolled – 88% go into teaching at graduation and over 80% are still teaching 5 years later. 
The economic impact on populations stuck in the lower end of the earnings ladder while great paying jobs go unfilled cannot be overstated.  With the data that is constantly in the news about the lack of STEM graduates, the issue now is getting more people to understand that there are solutions that can impact students in profound and meaningful ways.
The National Math + Science Initiative offers proven solutions with unique delivery systems and a scalable approach.  Schools and teachers contact NMSI on a regular basis to inquire about how they can bring these programs to their students, where they might be able to pursue funding, and how they can get the same results that their neighboring participants have experienced.  With an unmistakable need for better STEM education, a true solution with empirical results, and a remarkable return on investment, NMSI believes that the STEM Education Fund currently in the Immigration Act can, and will, make a difference for students and our economy.