Published Online: March 20, 2009

Duncan Eyes 'New Era' in Science Teaching

Duncan told the National Science Teachers Association during a visit to New Orleans that President Barack Obama sees a need for inventors and engineers along with poets and scholars and "will not allow scientific research to be held hostage to a political agenda."

"Whether it's global warming, evolution or stem cell research, science will be honored. It will be respected and supported by this administration," he said.

The federal stimulus bill includes more than $100 billion in new education funding, with $650 million set aside for technology grants, he said. Duncan couldn't say how much money would go specifically into science but pledged funds would be available to modernize labs.

He also said many of the teaching jobs saved with stimulus dollars would be in science labs. But the money must be used wisely, he said, not just on saving jobs but also on driving strong reforms.

Duncan also cited a $5-billion "race to the top fund" to provide incentives to states already doing innovative, reform-minded work. He said it doesn't make much sense for states to have their own education benchmarks and standards. In too many states, meeting standards, at best, means students are just qualified to graduate from high school, he said.

He said the country has a long way to go to improve science education. Sectors including engineering, health care, technology and green energy need more workers, and "a generalist," too often, is teaching middle school kids, he said.

That's been a problem for years, and the market needs to pay science and math teachers more, he said.


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