Educating Americans for the 21st Century

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The 124-page report of the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology includes 10 separate chapters and five exhibits. Four chapters and part of Exhibit C, which details the costs of the group's recommendations, are included here.

Single asterisks in brackets, [

  • ], denote footnotes that have been omitted. Remaining footnotes appear at the end of each chapter; they are not in sequence because sections of the report are not included in the following excerpts. Ellipses indicate that portions of the text have been deleted.


The nation that dramatically and boldly led the world into the age of technology is failing to provide its own children with the intellectual tools needed for the 21st century.

We continue to lead because our best students are still unsurpassed. We continue to lead because our universities, industries, resources, and affluence attract the finest talent from throughout the world. But this is a precarious advantage. The world is changing fast. Technological know-how is spreading throughout the world--along with the knowledge that such skills and sophistication are the basic capital of tomorrow's society.

Already the quality of our manufactured products, the viability of our trade, our leadership in research and development, and our standards of living are strongly challenged. Our children could be stragglers in a world of technology. We must not let this happen; America must not become an industrial dinosaur. We must not provide our children a 1960's education for a 21st-century world.

We must return to basics, but the "basics" of the 21st century are not only reading, writing, and arithmetic. They include communication and higher problem-solving skills, and scientific and technological literacy--the thinking tools that allow us to understand the technological world around us.

These new basics are needed by all students--not only tomorrow's scientists--not only the talented and fortunate--not only the few for whom excellence is a social and economic tradition. All students need a firm grounding in mathematics, science, and technology. What follows is a difficult and demanding plan to achieve this, but it must be accomplished. Our children are the most important asset of our country; they deserve at least the heritage that was passed to us.

By 1995, the nation must provide, for all its youth, a level of mathematics, science, and technology education that is the finest in the world, without sacrificing the American birthright of personal choice, equity, and opportunity.

This goal can be achieved. The best American students are the equal of any in the world. Indeed, the best schools in the world emulate the best of America. We have the know-how.

The commission proposes sweeping and drastic change: in the breadth of student participation, in our methods and quality of teaching, in the preparation and motivation of our children, in the content of our courses, and in our standards of achievement. We propose to initiate this difficult change through a strategy of (1) building a strong and lasting national commitment to quality mathematics, science, and technology education for all students; (2) providing earlier and increased exposure to these fields; (3) providing a system for measuring student achievement and participation; (4) retraining current teachers, retaining excellent teachers, and attracting new teachers of the highest quality and the strongest commitment; (5) improving the quality and usefulness of the courses that are taught; (6) establishing exemplary programs--landmarks of excellence--in every community to foster a new standard of academic excellence; (7) utilizing all available resources, including the new information technologies and informal education; and (8) establishing a procedure to determine the costs of required improvements and how to pay for them.

In this report we emphasize the teaching and learning of mathematics, science, and technology in elementary and secondary schools: that is the commission's charge. We recognize, however, that this area cannot be separated from the teaching and learning of many other important subjects, such as English, foreign languages, and history. We hope that glaring deficiencies in these other areas will be met with the same sense of urgency.


Reaching a new standard of academic excellence by 1995 requires clear educational objectives, strong leadership, and firm commitment at all levels. Goals must be set and progress toward those goals assessed. We must recognize the necessary investment, assess the cost, and accept the responsibility for participation at federal, state, and local levels, in both the public and private sectors. We call upon our national leaders to begin and maintain the process.

The President should immediately appoint a National Education Council, reporting directly to him, to identify national educational goals, to recommend and monitor the plan of action, to ensure that participation and progress are measured, and to report regularly to the American people on the standards and achievements of their schools.

The states should establish governors' councils to stimulate change, develop state educational goals, and monitor progress.

Local school boards should foster partnerships with business, government, and academia to encourage, aid, and support in solving the academic and financial problems of their schools.

The federal government should finance and maintain a national mechanism for measuring student achievement and participation in a manner that allows national, state, and local evaluation and comparison of educational progress.

Focus on All Students

This commission's plan is not only for the affluent or gifted. While it provides the quality and intensity of education needed to continue their development, it also addresses the needs and potential of all other students. It recognizes that substantial portions of our population still suffer from the consequence of racial, social, and economic discrimination, compounded by watered' standards, "social promotion," poor guidance, and token efforts. The commission has found that virtually every child can develop an understanding of mathematics, science, and technology if appropriately and skillfully introduced at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels.

The nation should reaffirm its commitment to full opportunity and full achievement by all. Discrimination, and the lingering effects thereof, due to race, gender, and other such irrelevant factors must be eradicated completely from the American educational system. "Excellence and elitism are not synonomous [sic]."

Quality Teaching and EarlierAnd Increased Exposure

Here and in other countries, programs that produce excellence and high achievement have similar characteristics. Education in mathematics, science, and technology begins early, is taught by qualified, committed teachers, and provides a consistent course of study, beginning before elementary school and continuing in a coherent pattern through high school.

This "vertical" curriculum emphasizes early "hands-on" experience, disciplined and rigorous study, and a substantial amount of time-on-task and homework at all levels. Above all, it includes strong motivation and commitment. Parents, students, and the system are all dedicated to high achievement from every student. Finally, successful systems have skilled and well-trained teachers who are supported by skilled administrators, good facilities, and specialized assistance.

This is true of major competitors like Japan, and it is true of America's scattered but equally impressive model programs. Unfortunately, it is not true of most of our schools.

Top priority must be placed on retraining, obtaining, and retaining teachers of high quality in mathematics, science, and technology, and providing them with a work environment in which they can be effective.

Top priority must be placed on providing earlier, increased, and more effective instruction in mathematics, science, and technology in grades K-6.

Considerably more time should be devoted to mathematics, science, and technology throughout the elementary and secondary grades. This will require that the school day, week, and/or year be substantially lengthened.

Models for Change

The potential of exemplary or model programs has been demonstrated in cities and localities throughout the country. Typically, they exhibit high achievement from students of every background, have strong links to local resources, and set an example that should be emulated and replicated in every school. As a first step toward change we recommend that such landmarks of excellence for mathematics, science, and technology education be established in every community.

The federal government should encourage and finance, in part, the establishment of exemplary programs in mathematics, science, and technology in every community, which would serve as examples and catalysts for upgrading all schools.

State governments should promote, and local school districts should establish such programs as a major strategy toward upgrading all schools.

We recommend that initially 1,000 such secondary schools and 1,000 such elementary schools be established throughout the country. The commission estimates the cost to the federal government to do so is $829 million disbursed at the rate of $276 million per year over a three-year period.

Solutions to the Teaching Dilemma

Ultimately, quality begins in the classroom; the teacher is the key. Unfortunately, we currently have severe shortages of qualified mathematics, science, and technology teachers throughout the nation, and many of today's teachers in these fields badly need retraining.

Many of the teachers in elementary schools are not qualified to teach mathematics and science for even 30 minutes a day. A significant fraction of our secondary-school teachers are called upon to work in subjects for which they were never trained. Even the most seasoned and experienced veterans must deal with subjects that are in a state of constant change; no one can remain knowledgeable in science without constant refreshing.

State governments should develop teacher-training and retraining programs in cooperation with colleges and universities. The potential of science museums as sites for such programs should be recognized, encouraged, and supported.

It is a federal responsibility to assure that, in the present crisis, appropriate retraining is available. Inservice and summer training programs should be established with federal support. The commission estimates the cost to the federal government of initiatives for retraining mathematics, science, and technology teachers to be $349 million per year for five years.

For the long term, teacher training by the states should continue as an ongoing process.

Every state should establish at least one regional training and resource center where teachers can obtain supporting services such as computer instruction and software and curriculum evaluation.

The National Science Foundation should provide seed money to develop training programs using the new information technologies.

At the same time that we improve the quality of current teaching, we must raise our standards for new teachers. We must attract and retain superior talent, and must provide better training, better working conditions, and better compensation for high-quality teachers, together with more demanding standards.

States should adopt rigorous certification standards, but not standards that create artificial bars to entry of qualified individuals into teaching.

Elementary mathematics and science teachers should have a strong liberal-arts background, college training in mathematics and the biological and physical sciences, a limited number of effective education courses, and practice teaching under a qualified teacher.

Secondary-school mathematics and science teachers should have a full major in college mathematics and science, a limited number of effective education courses, and practice teaching under a qualified teacher.

Both elementary and secondary teachers should be computer literate. Teacher training should incorporate the use of calculators and computers in mathematics and science instruction.

Liberal-arts colleges and academic departments need to assume a much greater role in training elementary and secondary teachers. Basic-education courses should be revised to incorporate current findings in the behavioral and social sciences.

In the short run, the pool of those presently qualified and teaching must be enlarged.

State and local school systems should draw upon the staffs of industry, universities, the military, and other government departments, and retired scientists to provide sources of qualified teaching assistance. Local systems should take actions to facilitate the entry and classroom training of such special teachers.

Compensation for mathematics, science, and technology teachers must be appropriate to their important role in "academic excellence," their small numbers, and their alternatives for employment. Highly qualified and competent mathematics, science, and technology teachers should receive overall rewards that are fair and relatively competitive with those received by comparable professionals in other sectors. Ultimately, the public will get what it pays for. At the same time, many teachers and teacher unions will have to re-examine their views about differential salaries in areas of shortage and systems of pay based on factors other than merely years of service and credits for "staff development." Examples of imaginative ways to enhance teacher compensation are provided [later in this report].

School systems should explore means to adjust compensation in order to compete for and retain high-quality teachers in fields like mathematics, science, and technology. Compensation calculations must include consideration of intangible benefits such as the length of the work year, promotion potential, and similar factors.

State and local governments should provide means for teachers to move up a salary and status ladder without leaving the classroom.

Local school systems, military and other governmental entities, and the private sector should all explore ways to extend the employment year while providing supplementary income and revitalizing experience.

Professional societies, schools, states, and the nation should find ways to recognize the performance and value of the excellent teacher.

Finally, we must take action to make the classroom a place where teachers can teach and children can learn--an exciting place with more opportunity for student-teacher interaction. We must build a professional environment that will attract and hold talented and well-trained teachers, despite the allure of the private sector.

State and local governments should work to improve the teaching environment. This includes greater administrative and parental support of discipline and attendance, fewer classroom interruptions, and higher academic standards, as well as the provision of needed equipment, materials, and specialized support staff.

Improving What Is TaughtAnd Learned

We have too long regarded mathematics and science as the exclusive domain of the talented elite--a preserve for only the gifted. By focusing on education of the well-prepared, we have both ignored and discouraged large numbers with potential talent and widened the gap between the sciences and the public they serve. There is no excuse for citizens in our technological society to say "I don't really know anything about science!"

While increasing our concern for the most talented, we must also attend to the need for early and sustained stimulation and preparation of all students so that we do not unwittingly exclude potential talent and so that we produce citizens, political leaders, teachers, managers, workers, and other decision makers who are prepared to deal with the age of technology. Significant, immediate progress can be made by simply increasing the amount of exposure students get to mathematics, science, and technology--although more persistent change will require a more elaborate process of review and revision of educational objectives.

Local school districts should revise their elementary-school schedules to provide consistent and sustained attention to mathematics, science, and technology: a minimum of 60 minutes per day of mathematics and 30 minutes per day of science in grades K-6; a full year of mathematics and science in grades 7 and 8.

Every state should establish rigorous standards for high-school graduation, and local school districts should provide rigorous standards for grade promotion. We should curtail the process of social promotion.

All secondary-school students should be required to take at least three years of mathematics and of science and technology, including one year of algebra and one semester of computer science. All secondary schools should offer advanced mathematics and science courses. This requirement should be in place by Sept. 1, 1985.

Colleges and universities should phase in higher mathematics and science entrance requirements, including four years of high-school mathematics, including a second year of algebra, coursework covering probability and statistics, four years of high-school science, including physics and chemistry, and one semester of computer science.

Specific school personnel should be obligated to inform students of these rigorous requirements. School districts and community colleges should cooperate in assisting students whose preparation is inadequate to allow them to take the next steps in their education.

For the long term, we must establish a pattern of education that will develop familiarity, skills, and understanding consistently and coherently throughout the years of elementary and secondary education. This does not imply either a lockstep or "national" curriculum; local diversity and variation is a key strength of American education. Rather, we call for a consensus on new educational objectives and a coherent national pattern--a framework for consistent education within which alternative curricula and materials and locals interpretation are encouraged.

The National Science Foundation should take a leadership role in promoting curriculum evaluation and development for mathematics, science, and technology. It should work closely with classroom teachers, technical experts from business and government, school boards and educational researchers, as well as with professional societies. Representatives of publishers and higher-education associations should become involved as the work proceeds, to encourage development and transfer of these ideas to actual material for the classroom.

The federal government should support research into the processes of teaching and learning at both the basic level and the level of classroom application.

In the body of this report, we provide a broad and preliminary outline of the content that should be included in this new pattern of education for all students. More important, we indicate the kinds of problem solving insight and skills that must be provided. We offer this not as a conclusion, but as a beginning--a place to start the long process of defining and developing programs that prepare students for a wide range of roles and needs.

New Information Technologies

Computers are revolutionizing many areas of our lives; they may well do the same for education. They and other new technologies offer the potential to work patiently with every student, regardless of level or sophistication. They also offer a means to relieve teachers of much of the drudgery of routine exercise and record keeping. Furthermore, computers offer a wealth of interactive learning resources, including access to word processing, data bases, graphic capabilities, and a host of related means to expand students' learning potential.

If this promise is fulfilled, computers could simultaneously provide a new standard of achievement and lower the cost of education.

The National Science Foundation should lead in evaluating progress in the application of new technologies, supporting prototype demonstrations, disseminating information, and supporting research on integration of educational technologies with the curriculum. These plans should not interfere with private initiatives now under way.

States should establish regional computer centers for teacher education and encourage the use of computers in the classroom for both teaching and administration.

Top executives in the computer, communication, and information-retrieval and transfer industries should develop plans which, in a good, economical and quick way, enable school systems to use the technology.

The national and state education councils and school boards should work with school districts and schools to develop plans for implementing these technologies in the classroom.

Informal Education

A great deal of education takes place outside the classroom. The most fortunate students receive experiences in museums, clubs, and independent activities. All children are strongly conditioned and motivated by their early experiences and impressions. The child who has regularly visited zoos, plantaria, and science museums, hiked along nature trails, and built model airplanes and telescopes is infinitely better prepared for, and more receptive to, the mathematics and science of the classroom.

Formal education should be preceded and supplemented by a wide range of such informal learning experiences.

Youth organizations, museums, broadcasters, and other agents of informal education should endeavor to make the environment for informal learning as rich as possible.

Science broadcasts warrant continued and substantial federal support, as well as corporate and other private support. Federal regulation of commercial stations should include a required period of educational programming for children.

The federal government should provide supplementary support to encourage a full spectrum of community and educational activities by science museums.

Businesses and broadcasters should help to promote and publicize the efforts of institutions like science museums and public broadcasting.

Local business groups and organizations with related interests should work with museums to supplement and encourage their activities and to create new programs that let children see science and technology in the real world.


This commission has not avoided the difficult issue of cost. Change requires investment. In the end, it may well be that a better educational system will yield greater efficiency, long-term economics and a more valuable output. But in the near future, our recommendations require substantial net investment at all levels.

In particular, as the leader and driving force to encourage change, we believe that the federal government should anticipate an initial investment of approximately $1.51 billion for the first full year the recommended federal initiatives are in place ($829 million of this amount will be disbursed over three years at the rate of $276 million per year). During succeeding years the federal appropriation will decline--to approximately $680 million in the second year and $331 million in the sixth year. We do not consider this an excessive investment in our nation's human capital. In fact, the cost is small compared to the much larger efforts and investments of local school systems, which ultimately carry most of the burden, responsibility, and authority for the quality of our children's education. The federal government should study ways to protect the states and local communities from any anti-competitive effects on the states and local communities of increasing taxes for educational purposes.

Before we shrink from our responsibility, consider the heritage that was passed to us. We must not do less for our children and future generations.


Alarming numbers of young Americans are ill-equipped to work in, contribute to, profit from, and enjoy our increasingly technological society. Far too many emerge from the nation's elementary and secondary schools with an inadequate grounding in mathematics, science, and technology. As a result, they lack sufficient knowledge to acquire the training, skills, and understanding that are needed today and will be even more critically needed in the 21st century. This situation must not continue--improved preparation of all students in the fields of mathematics, science, and technology is essential to the maintenance and development of our nation's economic strength, to its military security, to its continued commitment to the democratic ideal of an informed and participating citizenry, and to fulfilling personal lives for its people.

The problems facing elementary and secondary education, particularly in mathematics, science, and technology, are well known and well documented. Simply put, students in our nation's schools are learning less mathematics, science, and technology, particularly in the areas of abstract thinking and problem solving. Since the late 1960's, most students have taken fewer mathematics and science courses.[

  • ] Mathematics and science achievement scores of 17-year-olds have dropped steadily and dramatically during the same period.[
  • ]

Indeed, the problem is vastly more serious when the way education is distributed among students is examined. Twenty-five percent of our young people are not even graduating from high school.[

  • ] A disproportionate number of these non-graduates are minority students, children from poor economic conditions, and students whose parents do not speak English at home.[
  • ]

The Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology, established by the National Science Board in April 1982, was not formed to produce yet another report on the problem. Recently, there have been a number of dramatic descriptions and cries of alarm. These previous reports[

  • ] have successfully focused national attention on the "rising tide of mediocrity [in education] that threatens our very future as a nation and a people."[
  • ] This commission's responsibility is different. Its task is to recommend solutions.

From the outset, therefore, this commission has concentrated on developing specific recommendations to move elementary and secondary education in the United States forward to a new standard of "excellence" worthy of a world leader (the United States is still physically the richest nation in the world and the one most often called upon to provide international leadership). This report outlines a plan of action and, for the first time, addresses the all-important question of costs and proposes a procedure to determine the methods of financing such a plan. ...

During the last years of this century, the position of mathematics, science, and technology, historically at the periphery of learning for all but a few American students, must shift to center stage for all. Americans must acquire a greatly increased understanding of the physical and biological world. This goal can be achieved. This commission has seen convincing evidence that all students (except those with insurmountable learning disabilities) can develop a useful understanding of mathematics, science, and technology if these subjects are appropriately introduced and skillfully taught at the elementary- and secondary-school levels.

Promoting this learning of mathematics, science, and technology will require fundamental changes in both what is learned and how it is taught. Effective leadership will be required at all levels of government in order to build a new national commitment to providing quality mathematics, science, and technology education for all American students, while at the same time continually improving what we are now doing for the present set of outstanding students in these fields. Practices and attitudes in the present educational system must be significantly revised. Substantially more time must be devoted to the study of mathematics, science, and technology. The quality of teaching in these courses must be reviewed and improved, and technology must become an integral part of the study of science, mathematics, and other subjects. Finally, improved methods of education, utilizing all available resources,[

  • ] must be developed.

Each generation of Americans has the responsibility to prepare future generations for the world that will confront them. Our forefathers prepared us to cope with the complicated world we live in, and we, as the current adult generations, must fulfill our responsibility for preparing our children for the increasingly technological world of the future. We must heed H.G. Wells's warning that "human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." Action is required now to ensure that America's people are prepared for the 21st century.

When speaking of "academic or educational excellence," this commission does not mean the provision of high-quality education to only a small group of highly talented youth. As used in this report, "academic or educational excellence" refers to educational offerings and teaching techniques and commitments that will not only enlarge the pool of students of highest potential but also will encourage and enable all students to achieve at a level equal to their full capability.


Underlying every commission recommendation is one basic objective:

The improvement and support of elementary- and secondary-school systems throughout America so that, by the year 1995, they will provide all the nation's youth with a level of education in mathematics, science, and technology, as measured by achievement scores and participation levels (as well as other non-subjective criteria), that is not only the highest quality attained anywhere in the world but also reflects the particular and peculiar need of our nation.

When the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education II ... addressed the timing of the end of segregation in the public schools, the Court used the majestic words that racial segregation should end with "all deliberate speed." Despite this sound of urgency, some 28 years later, racial segregation continues in many school districts. This commission, therefore, concludes that a specific date should be set for accomplishing what it recommends in this report. It selected the date of Dec. 31, 1995, 12 years from now, because this represents one complete education cycle for a generation of schoolchildren. This date provides adequate time to retrain present teachers; to find and train new teachers; to develop the necessary measurement procedures and core curricula; for governments to raise the needed funds, and for teachers, parents, and students to accept and adjust to the massive changes. If this goal is achieved, then whoever is President of the United States can, in his or her State of the Union Address in 1996, tell the American public that their elementary and secondary schools are providing the kind of education in mathematics, science, and technology that is the best in the world, that will meet the nation's human-resources requirements, and more important, that will provide all of its students a fair opportunity to realize their full potential in the technological environment of the next century.

To achieve this basic objective by 1995, the commission first recommends a series of major strategic actions. They are aimed at building a new national commitment that will initiate major actions in American education and provide a system to measure the results. Such actions involve firm and continuing national leadership, state and local commitments to improved education, a popular commitment to "academic excellence," and the development of incentives and mechanisms to promote and bring about needed change. Such mechanisms include the establishment of deadlines by which certain parts of the process must be completed, a system to measure progress, both for the nation as a whole and for its component school districts, and the creation of prestigious councils (at various levels) to guide the process.

Consistent with this commission's charge from the National Science Board, this report's emphasis is on elementary- and secondary-school instruction and learning in mathematics, science, and technology. The commission recognizes, however, the interrelationships among all areas of learning, and that there are also glaring deficiencies in the teaching and learning of English and foreign languages, history, political science, the classics, art, music, and other areas of study important for life in the 21st century. Plans and programs to meet these problems are vital. The commission hopes such plans and programs will be developed with the same time schedule in mind.

The nation must not underestimate the importance of the difficulty of achieving the basic objective set forth in this report. The objective of "educational excellence" in mathematics, science, and technology ranks high on the nation's formidable agenda of complex public-policy issues. Indeed, in importance it is light years beyond most other issues on that agenda. At stake is the quality of life of the next generation of Americans.

Correcting the problems of American elementary and secondary education will not, however, be quick or easy. Our educational system has, in many cases, suffered from shocking past neglect, misdirection, and deeply entrenched practices that are difficult to alter. Inertia, as well as often sincere opposition to many needed reforms, must also be overcome. Great change is required.

Funding needed changes is also a critical consideration. Some of the money now being spent at the federal, state, and local levels for elementary and secondary education might, of course, be directed more efficiently and effectively, and some of the reforms recommended in this report should result in further economies in the long term. In the near term, however, the necessary changes may require increased net investment at the national, state, and local levels.

Determining the size of the required short-term investment, the appropriate level of government (federal, state, or local) to fund such investments, and the appropriate source of, or methods for, raising required funds are all difficult public-policy questions that must be addressed immediately with candor and determination.

The commission believes that in order to accomplish its objectives by 1995 it is imperative that a process be established to address these critical questions. ... The public in a democratic society, if it is aroused, is willing to commit its limited resources to get what it considers important.[

  • ] Americans will accept added costs if they are convinced that the money is being spent wisely, fairly, and efficiently, if the blueprint for improvement is clear, and if they begin to see significant results within a reasonable period of time. The commission is confident, therefore, that citizens will accept additional costs for mathematics, science, and technology education if the importance of such education to our nation is supported by its leaders and is recognized by its people.

Many of the recommendations set out in this report could have significant value in developing education in areas of study other than mathematics, science, and technology. The application of these recommendations to other aspects of America's elementary- and secondary-education systems should be seriously considered.

... Change will not come easily in a highly pluralistic educational system such as ours. It is difficult to build a strong national consensus when major control is at the local, grass-roots level, and when there are complex local, state, and national interest groups that have developed constituencies, programs, and sources of financial support over the years. Local school boards, teachers, school administrators, vocational-education officials, state legislators, chief state school officers, state boards and departments of education, and governors, as well as many other groups and individuals, are all involved in this complex balancing of interests, expertise, and control. Resistance to change can range from reflexive avoidance of the untried, through sincere disagreement with the proposed course of action, to deep-seated opposition on the part of the politically entrenched. At the same time, this very diversity constitutes the system's strength--its innovativeness, its adaptability to local needs, and its stability. Once mobilized, it can be a powerful force.

These long-term economies will be widespread even if some may be subtle to detect. Not only would educational reform result in the delivery of better education at lower unit costs, but it would relieve governments of the public expenses connected with aid to those who cannot hold a meaningful job, relieve private and public employers of some of the costs to train their employees, create greater productivity, and relieve the military of some expenses connected with training ill-prepared recruits.


... Consonant with its original mandate from the National Science Board, the commission has formulated a set of recommendations that call for actions and initiatives at the federal level. The estimated cost of the recommendations listed [below] is $1.51 billion in the first full year of their institution.[

  • ] In total, the cost of these new federal initiatives is modest in comparison to the $9.0 billion spent last year in federal assistance to elementary and secondary education.

Inefficiencies, where found, elimination of unsuccessful and duplicative efforts, and more effective expenditures of government funds might reduce (at the margins) present levels of federal, state, and local spending.[

  • ] And many of the commission's recommendations will result, in the long term, in a better quality of services being delivered at a lower overall net cost to society. It is mandatory that a search for all such savings and the elimination of unnecessary expenditures be undertaken immediately by each level of government (with help from the private sector).[
  • ] The public will not tolerate waste if, at the same time, it is called upon to increase significantly its support for education. Any perception of waste, whether well founded or not, will reduce the public zeal for changes that require additional government outlays.

Even after such possible savings are realized, however, the commission is certain that, at least in the short term, more public money must be spent to accomplish the goals and objectives set forth in this report by 1995. In addition to determining the required overall net increase in spending, the difficult and equally crucial question of what portion should be borne by the federal government must be addressed. The federal government has an interest in the overall functioning of the elementary- and secondary-school system, and, in appropriate circumstances, this interest warrants federal assistance to aid in the establishment, maintenance, and support of such schools. This belief is based upon recognition that, inter alia:

(a) Prepared citizens (especially in science, mathematics, and technology, as well as other basic academic and technical subjects) are required for the operation of the nation's essential industries and services, the ability of those industries to compete internationally, and for military security. Such preparation is also necessary to enable an informed public to consider, discuss, and judge intelligently the major issues facing the nation today, many of which have a mathematical, scientific, and technological thrust.

(b) Some federal activities and requirements place additional costs on the local school system (e.g., impacts created by the stationing of federal facilities like military bases in the school district, federal racial desegregation, anti-poverty and anti-handicap policies and regulations).

(c) Federal involvement is necessary when certain critical skills are extremely short or when there is a great need for an urgent program to produce vital talent in the nation (e.g., shortages of trained doctors or other medical personnel in wartime or in the national response to Sputnik).

(d) Improperly or inadequately trained high school graduates increase the cost of training for those inducted into the defense forces.

Thus, the federal government is perceived as having at least some responsibilities to ensure that its citizens are trained to meet the demands of the workplace and a society that increasingly require mathematical, scientific, and technological skills and understanding.

This commission does not believe, however, that these and other considerations lead to the conclusion that the nation now expects the federal government to assume the primary responsibility for supplying financial support for new educational activities at the elementary- and secondary-school level required to accomplish the 1995 objective. Americans live under a federal constitutional system which reserves certain powers and functions to the state. Throughout its history, the nation has accepted and supported the premise that the principal responsibility for creating, maintaining, and operating elementary- and secondary-school systems belongs to the states and local governments. The commission believes, therefore, that there is a national consensus that (except in unusual circumstances) state and local governments should bear most of the expense of elementary and secondary education, including costs of buildings, textbooks, teachers, and administrators.

The commission also recognizes that it would not discharge its responsibility by merely recommending increased federal expenditures, because simply stated, it will never happen, and if it did, it would not completely solve the problem and might just result in the waste of some federal dollars. The federal government already has an enormous annual deficit. Federal allocations to the states and schools are often accompanied by paperwork and control that many school districts already claim are excessive. Most important, excessive federal intrusion might deter or prevent the implementation of imaginative plans which the commission knows local school districts are capable of developing.

The commission does not recommend, therefore, that the federal government supply all of the necessary new funds. As previously stated, however, the commission does recommend federal funding for certain specific programs as set forth [below]. In addition, new approaches must be stimulated by the federal government to aid state and local districts in the discharge of their responsibilities.

In order to develop the financial approaches required and to make the determinations called for in deciding how the costs of public education should be shared by all sectors, the commission recommends:

The President should immediately establish a Council on Educational Financing, which would examine the methods through which the nation could marshal the resources to implement the commission's recommendations. The function of the council would be (1) to determine which levels of government are responsible for providing the funds required to implement the recommendations, and (2) to suggest devices that will protect states and local governmental bodies that assume a share of the responsibility for implementing any or all of these recommendations from anti-competitive tax disadvantages.[

  • ]

In order to do this, the council would need to determine: (a) just how much funding is needed to implement all of the recommendations, (b) what part of these funds, if any, can be recouped through increased efficiency and the elimination of unnecessary present programs, (c) which levels of government should assume responsibility for the remaining financial shortfall, and (d) what types of revenue measures are required to raise the needed funds.

The council would be instructed to render a report with conclusions on or before August 31, 1984.

During their initial year, the initiatives set forth in this plan will require a federal appropriation of $1.51 billion. During the succeeding years, this figure will decline--to approximately $680 million in the second year and $331 million in the sixth year. ...



The following is a list of the commission's major recommendations for federal action and an indication of the annual costs, above current estimates of spending, needed to implement each. Detailed notes on each recommendation follow this summary listing.

1. The President should immediately appoint a National Education Council made up of representatives from a cross-section of national interests. This council should report regularly to the President. It should provide leadership in developing, coordinating, and implementing plans to improve and maintain the quality of the nation's elementary and secondary education in mathematics, science, and technology. The President's National Education Council should, on a continuing basis, (1) identify educational goals and recommend the changes needed in the form and content of education to reach those goals; (2) ensure that the assessment mechanism described below is developed and maintained for measuring and comparing student achievement, participation, and progress toward these goals in every state, school district, and school; and (3) monitor and report annually to the American people on the status of American education and progress toward achieving these educational goals. It should also facilitate the sharing of information about successful mathematics, science, and technology educational programs. Finally, the President's National Education Council should recommend incentives to encourage state, local, and private investment in education.

Cost: $2.75 million

2. The federal government should finance and maintain a national mechanism to measure student achievement and participation in a manner that allows national, state, and local evaluation and comparison of educational progress. This assessment mechanism should be overseen by the President's National Education Council. The actual assessment, however, should be performed by groups responsible for the National Assessment of Educational Progress or other such entities experienced in testing procedures and techniques.

Cost: $5 million

3. The unique national role of the federal government (including important Department of Education and National Science Foundation programs) in ensuring access in its broadest sense to educational opportunity must continue.

Cost: $157 million

4. The federal government should encourage and finance, in part, the establishment of exemplary schools or programs in mathematics, science, and technology in each community throughout the nation to serve as examples and catalysts for upgrading all schools. The federal government should evaluate current resource-allocation policies, entertain redistribution, and, where necessary, appropriate funds to support the development of such programs. ... The federal government should appropriate funds to aid the establishment of at least 1,000 such exemplary schools at the secondary level and at least 1,000 such schools at the elementary level throughout the country.

Cost: $829 million

5. The Department of Education and the National Science Foundation should support and facilitate the dissemination of information to help build this national network of exemplary programs.

Cost: $0 added

6. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that such [teacher] training is available and should provide funding for in-state teacher-training programs in mathematics, science, and technology. Summer and inservice institutes, supported by the National Science Foundation, provide a proven model for upgrading of teacher skills.

Cost: $349 million

7. The National Science Foundation should provide seed money to develop and establish statewide or regional on-site teacher-training programs using the new information technologies.

Cost: $30 million

8. The National Science Foundation, which has recognized expertise in leading curriculum development, should again take the leadership role in curriculum evaluation and development for mathematics, science, and technology. The National Science Foundation should set up a process to evaluate existing curricula, identify good curricula, disseminate information, act as a clearinghouse, and promote the development of guidelines for new curricula as necessary. [Also] the National Science Foundation should support the development of courses to meet this need [courses dealing with technology at grades 8 and 9]. ... To achieve this objective, the commission suggests, as one mechanism for the National Science Foundation to consider, that a Mathematics, Science, and Technology Curriculum Council be established in the National Science Foundation. ... It should appoint and coordinate the activities of [4] specific committees. ... The responsibility for each committee should include: determination of the best course content for its subject area; critical review of the available texts and other teaching materials; publication through the National Science Foundation of the results of the critical evaluation; identification of the areas where improved materials and totally new course materials are needed; identification of the areas where future research is needed in curriculum development and the processes of teaching and learning. ... The council and committees should work with widely dispersed demonstration centers to test new curriculum.

Cost: $52 million

9. Research into the processes of teaching and learning should be supported with federal funds at both the basic level and the level of classroom application. This research should further the recent progress in the cognitive sciences, and particular research projects should investigate the integration of educational technologies into the processes of teaching and learning.

Cost: $10.5 million

10. The National Science Foundation ... should again take the leadership role in evaluating the status of developments in the area [educational applications of new technologies]. This should include such actions as determining needed initiatives, supporting prototype demonstrations, disseminating information on model materials and practices, and supporting research on integration of educational technologies with curriculum. To achieve this, the commission suggests, as one mechanism for the National Science Foundation to consider, that a Council for Technology Application in Education be established. ... This group would advise the National Science Foundation on initiatives in this area, including: supporting research into the fundamental aspects of the integration of modern technology into the processes of teaching and learning; developing mathematics, science, and technology curricula that can integrate computer systems and supporting materials effectively; promoting private industry, colleges, and universities to collaborate in training inservice teachers in the utilization of high-technology systems [e.g. out-of-school and inservice-training programs, computer conferences, training programs for schools of education]; encouraging and assisting school systems to acquire computers, software, instructional materials, and science equipment [e.g., via tax incentives]; and assisting in making the highest quality software available on the broadest possible scale.

Cost: $36 million

11. Science broadcasts are an important and cost-effective vehicle of informal learning, which warrant continued and substantial federal investment and support.

Cost: $13 million

12. Federal regulation of commercial [broadcasting] stations should include a required period of educational programming for children.

Cost: $0 added

13. The federal government should provide supplementary support for museum-education activities in mathematics, science, and technology at a level that will encourage a rich spectrum of activities and options.

Cost: $25 million

14. Private industry and government agencies should create programs and opportunities which let children see science and technology in actual operation in their plants and installations.

Cost: $0 added

TOTAL COST: $1.51 billion

[Detailed notes describing these recommendations follow in the report.]

Vol. 03, Issue 02

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