May 10, 2011

With Over One-Quarter of New York Students Lacking Skills for Jobs of the Future, Gillibrand Announces Education Agenda to Improve STEM Proficiency, Boost America's Competitiveness

Gillibrand Plan Graduates More STEM Students, Attracts More STEM Teachers, Raises Science Proficiency to Restore America’s Competitiveness

Washington, DC – To empower all New York students with the education they need for the jobs of the future, and help restore America’s competitiveness in the high-tech global economy, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced her innovation education agenda as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Senator Gillibrand is working to attract more students to science and technology, draw more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teachers to high-need schools to close achievement gaps, establish a nationally recognized set of achievement standards for science, and encourage all states to include science in standardized testing to boost proficiency among all American students.

“America is home to the world’s strongest economy, the greatest colleges and universities, and the world’s brightest minds,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But if we’re going to keep our place atop the global economy, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with sparking more interest in math, science and technology, drawing more STEM teachers to educate students in high-need areas, and streamlining proficiency standards that hold us back. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It’s our job to make sure they are prepared.”

The fastest growing occupations of the last decade required expertise in the fields of science and technology, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But less than one-third of American students are proficient in math and science, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Analysis of New York State's four math regents and four science regents from 2010 indicate that on average more than one-quarter of New York students tested poorly in math and science.

Click here for a county-by-county breakdown.

  • In New York City, 24 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 39 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In Western New York, 23 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 16 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In Rochester/Finger Lakes, 25 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 15 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In Central New York, 24 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 19 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In the Southern Tier, 27 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 19 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In the Capital Region, 24 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 18 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In the North Country, 24 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 16 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • In the Hudson Valley, 26 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 17 percent score unsatisfactory in science.
  • On Long Island, 16 percent of high school students score unsatisfactory in math and 14 percent score unsatisfactory in science.

Senator Gillibrand’s Innovation Education Agenda

1. Strengthening STEM Education for New York Students
America is home to the best colleges and universities in the world. But our students are not leaving college prepared with the education they need for the high-tech jobs of the future. 

Just 5 percent of American college graduates major in engineering, while 12 percent of European students and 20 percent of students in Asia pursue engineering, according to the National Science Board’s 2010 Science and Engineering Indicators.

The report also shows a disproportionately low amount of U.S. women pursuing engineering degrees. While women earn nearly 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, less than 20 percent graduate with engineering degrees, holding women back from leading in high-tech industries.

To boost STEM education programs in America’s elementary, middle and high schools, Senator Gillibrand is introducing the Engineering Education for Innovation Act (the E2 for Innovation Act),  a targeted effort to increase the number of students who choose science and engineering as a career, and maintain America’s competitiveness in the world economy.

The E2 for Innovation Act would:

  • Integrate engineering education into K-12 classrooms by designing challenging content and curricula frameworks and assessments that include engineering.
  • Increase engineering and technology teacher preparation programs and recruit qualified teachers to provide engineering education in high-need schools. 
  • Increase student achievement in STEM subjects and knowledge and competency in engineering design skills.
  • Invest in afterschool engineering education programs.
  • Promote partnerships among K-12 school administrators and teachers, and engineering member bodies and engineering professionals.

 The E2 for Innovation Act is a three year program that would award grants through the Secretary of Education in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation for the planning and implementation of engineering education into K-12 instruction and cirriculum. It would also provide funding for one year to the Institute of Education Sciences for research and evaluation grants to assess the effectiveness of the funds used for planning and implementation.

The legislation is endorsed by over 100 high-tech businesses and organizations, including IBM, Lockheed Martin, the National Center for Technological Literacy, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the National Girls Collaborative Project, the Society of Women Engineers, as well as the New York Hall of Science, and the New York State STEM Education Collaborative.

2. Increase Hands-On STEM Learning
To help spark more student interest in science, math and technology to boost their proficiency in these subjects, Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program Act. The legislation would establish a grant program within the U.S. Department of Education to create more hands-on STEM learning experiences in our classrooms, such as robotics.

According to a Brandeis University study, 88 percent of students that participate in these kids of learning experiences go on to full-time higher education, are almost twice as likely to major in a science or engineering field, and are more than three times as likely to major specifically in engineering – putting these students on a path to promising, good-paying, high-tech jobs.

3. Produce More STEM Teachers

America faces a stark shortage of math and science teachers to prepare our students. In fact, the U.S. will need an estimated 283,000 math and science teachers in secondary schools by 2015, according to the Business-Higher Education Forum 2006 Report.

The lack of STEM teachers is taking a serious toll on the amount of STEM students we produce. And the lack of STEM teachers in low-income schools widens racial and gender gaps among our high-tech workforce:

  • Women represent 43 percent of our workforce, but make up only 23 percent of scientists and engineers;
  • African Americans and Hispanics together represent about 30 percent of our workforce, but make up only 7 percent of scientists and engineers;
  • Together, African Americans and Hispanics receive less than 5 percent of all doctorates in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science.

 To help equip all of our classrooms with the teachers we need to train more students to be the high-tech innovators of the future, Senator Gillibrand is introducing the National STEM Education Tax Incentive for Teachers Act. The legislation would provide STEM teachers who work in low-income, high-need schools a tax credit to cover 10 percent of their undergraduate tuition – up to $1,000 each year. STEM teachers in schools serving in high-need schools would be able to deduct up to $1,500 each year.

The legislation is a critical tool to attract STEM teachers to low-income schools and help increase the number of low-income students succeeding in STEM classes and pursuing careers in math, science and engineering. 

4. Prepare New York Students to Compete Globally
To compete and win in tomorrow’s economy, students today must be armed with strong math and science literacy. But countries around the world currently outperform American students in these subjects.

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and science, and large achievement gaps and underrepresentation exist among African American, Hispanic, Native American, and women students.

With more than 50 different sets of academic content standards, 50 state academic assessments, and 50 definitions of proficiency, state to state variations make it extremely difficult for parents and teachers to measure the achievements of our students. This holds our students back from excelling in college, advancing to good-paying, high-growth jobs, and decreases America’s overall competiveness in the global economy.

To strengthen our students’ performance in science and technology, Senator Gillibrand is introducing the Voluntary Science and Mathematics Standards Act. The legislation would:

  • Encourage States and the National Assessment Governing Board to adopt the common core standards in mathematics and the next generation standards framework in K–12 science education developed by the National Research Council, along with professional development and aligned assessments that reflect the knowledge students need to enter college and careers to compete in the 21st century global economy.
  • Encourage States and the National Assessment Governing Board to align the State academic assessments in mathematics and science with the voluntary content standards in mathematics and science.

Encourage states to participate by having the U.S. Secretary of Education establish the American Standards Incentive fund to award competitive four-year grants to states that agree to adopt these voluntary mathematics and science standards as the core of their own mathematics and science  content standards, and align their teacher certification and professional development to these standards.