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Geotimes
 Published by the American Geological Institute
Newsmagazine of the Earth Sciences

 June 2000


News Notes
 Science Education

Bases loaded

A recently announced set of bills could be a grand slam for the future of science, mathematics, engineering and technology (SMET) education in the United States. Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), who was a research physicist before he joined Congress, announced the introduction of the National Science Education Acts of 2000 at a Washington press conference April 11. The three-bill package — the National Science Education Act, the National Science Education Enhancement Act and the National Science Education Incentive Act — would serve SMET education and focus on recruiting well-trained educators.

Ehlers believes that the American education system must encourage people to continue SMET research and development needed to fuel economic growth; prepare workers for a science-based, high-technology workplace; and educate scientifically literate voters and consumers. “These bills are a first step in a long process to ensure that teachers are provided the necessary training and skills to teach these subjects, and that students are provided the best possible learning curricula and environment,” he said.

The National Science Education Act, the cornerstone of the package, would provide grants through the National Science Foundation (NSF) for public and private schools to hire “Master Teachers” who would be trained to direct SMET educators in their professional development and pedagogy. The bill also would create a 15-member working group to identify, review and coordinate programs for K-12 SMET education and post information on the Internet. Several other provisions of the bill would establish grants and programs to help teachers and students use technology effectively in the classroom.

The National Science Education Enhancement Act aims to improve and expand SMET education activities at the Department of Education. Several clauses in this bill would expand the current activities at the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education to include evaluations of programs within its database, an internal search engine containing links to useful sites and information on mentoring. The bill would also establish summer professional development institutes for educators.

Lastly, the National Science Education Incentive Act would provide SMET teachers a tax credit of 10 percent of their total college tuition, up to $1,000 per year for 10 years. It also grants tax credits for private-sector companies that invest in teacher professional development, contribute equipment or donate their services to improve SMET education.

Margaret Baker
AGI Government Affairs Program

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