A Former Ed-Sec Speaks on Math and Science

By Sean Cavanagh — June 04, 2009 1 min read
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Former U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley has written an opinion piece about the state of math and science education in this country, which I meant to post a couple days ago.

Riley, a former South Carolina governor who served as secretary under Bill Clinton, makes the oft-repeated case that the future job market is going to require students with sharper math and science skills. In addition to making the pitch for “common standards” around the country, he argues that school officials need to promote “entrepreneurial approaches” in education that spark changes to “the marketplace for functions such as teacher recruitment, data management, and professional development.” The column was written for the Huffington Post, a liberal blog.

He also seems to convey a message similar to one that President Obama did recently, in a speech before the National Academies: that one way to bolster the teaching of science in K-12 schools is by having actual scientists and academic researchers contribute to education programs, and get involved in promoting that subject to students and teachers.

“We must insist that our colleges and universities are at the table as full partners to the K-12 community, that science-rich institutions are fully accessed and integrated into core math and science curriculum, and that the business and philanthropic communities are pushing math and science education to the fore at every opportunity.”

I’ve written quite a bit about universities taking an interest in K-12 science, sometimes in connection to their own research projects on student achievement and engagement. In other cases, universities have taken a very different approach, sponsoring science camps and activities targeting female and minority students, in an effort to keep them interested in the subjects. And some school districts, like New York City, have formed partnerships with the “institutions” Riley refers to—zoos, museums, science centers—using their resources to supplement the science curriculum. (NYC’s program is called “Urban Advantage.” See a photo of a participating student, to the right.) It’s a merging of formal and informal science lessons.

I realize this may be a preposterously broad question, but how do you think schools, universities, and science institutions can work together more effectively to improve math and science education in K-12?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.