Few Federal Math and Science Programs Deemed Effective

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

As Congress pushes ahead with legislation that seeks to improve math and science education, a new federal report questions the effectiveness of the federal government’s current investments in those areas.

The report, released May 10 by the Academic Competitiveness Council, concludes that there is too much overlap and too little coordination between mathematics and science programs, and no consistent way of judging their value.

The council’s work was mandated by Congress two years ago. Chaired by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, the panel included representatives of numerous federal agencies that oversee math and science programs.

An estimated 105 such programs exist across agencies, with a combined budget of more than $3 billion a year.

Currently, only a small number of math and science programs—10 out of 115 agency programs and individual projects reviewed—hold themselves to “scientifically rigorous evaluations” that have produced measurable results, the report says. Another 15, it says, use that standard but have not yet reported results.

“There is a general dearth of evidence of effective practices and activities” in math and science education, the report says. Even programs that have been studied extensively, it adds, have not yielded enough evidence to produce “decisions about education policy or classroom practice.”

The largest chunk of federal programs reviewed, or 29 percent, are housed within the National Science Foundation; 23 percent are overseen by the Department of Education.

The report does not single out weak programs that should be carved out of the federal budget. The goal was to study how such programs are being evaluated and to recommend a better process, said Kenneth R. Zeff, a senior consultant at the Education Department and the agency’s representative on the council.

“It’s important to understand how much the federal government spends on math and science education,” Mr. Zeff said. “I don’t think that was clear before.”

Administration Proposals

The language of the report highlights several Bush administration proposals that seek to improve math and science education. Those proposals have failed to win congressional support, however. Last month, House and Senate lawmakers instead approved separate pieces of math and science legislation, which would expand a number of existing federal teacher-recruitment and -training programs. ("Math-Science Bills Advance in Congress," May 2, 2007.)

The House and Senate have yet to reconcile differences between the two bills.

The administration has questioned the cost and effectiveness of the programs supported in the bills. But Mr. Zeff said the competitiveness council’s report was meant to provide “good-government-oriented” recommendations for evaluating programs, not fodder for a debate over legislation.

Federal programs place too little emphasis, the report says, on outcomes, or measurable results, from math and science spending. Improved test scores in math and science under the No Child Left Behind Act is a clearer method for judging results, it argues.

The council recommends that agencies establish a way of conducting “rigorous, independent” evaluations of programs, and make funding for them contingent on those reviews.

James Brown, the co-chairman of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Coalition, said he was not surprised by the report’s findings, or its call for tougher standards in judging programs. His Washington-based group supports both of the math and science bills awaiting consideration by Congress; the teacher-training and other programs in those bills meet the council’s expectations, he said.

Those programs “have been proven,” Mr. Brown said. “You’re not adding programs that are off in left field.”

Vol. 26, Issue 37, Page 23

Published in Print: May 16, 2007, as Few Federal Math and Science Programs Deemed Effective
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >