Federal

Few Federal Math and Science Programs Deemed Effective

By Sean Cavanagh — May 15, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.

Read the executive summary and the full text of the report, posted by the U.S. Department of Education.

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.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the May 16, 2007 edition of Education Week as Few Federal Math and Science Programs Deemed Effective

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Top Federal Adviser on Puerto Rico's Schools Declares: 'We Have to Build Trust'
Chris Soto heads an Education Department team providing technical assistance and support for the U.S. territory's public schools.
4 min read
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Martin G. Brumbaugh School kindergarten teacher Nydsy Santiago teaches her students under a gazebo at a municipal athletic park in Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 4, 2021.
Carlos Giusti/AP
Federal Schools Could Count Nonbinary Students Under Biden Proposal
The Civil Rights Data Collection for this school year could also revive questions about inexperienced teachers and preschool discipline.
6 min read
Image of a form with male and female checkboxes.
iStock/Getty
Federal 'Parents' Bill of Rights' Underscores Furor Over Curriculum and Transparency in Schools
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley's bill highlights how education issues like critical race theory will likely stay in the national political spotlight.
7 min read
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., says "it's time to give control back to parents, not woke bureaucrats."
Patrick Semansky/AP
Federal Opinion It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem
Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty