Monday, June 15, 2009

Mobilization for Math/Science Education - Role of Higher Education

For an earlier version of this post see Hake (2009).

According to Stephanie Lee's (2009) Inside Higher Ed report " 'Mobilization' for Math and Science Education," Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation, said:


"The quality of math and science learning at colleges and universities ultimately begins with solid instruction at the K-12 level. While higher education remains  strong, it is clear it cannot continue without a strong foundation."

Taking issue with Gregorian, "Steve" in his comment "Higher Education Responsibility" at wrote: 

"From experience I know that the quality of math and science learning at colleges and universities ultimately DOES NOT begin with solid instruction at the K-12 level, it begins with the quality of math and science learning at colleges and universities. For far too long higher education has 'passed the buck' by not producing qualified teachers."

RIGHT ON, STEVE! The NSF's (1996) report "Shaping the Future" put it this way [my insert at ". . . . [insert]. . . ."]:


"Many faculty in SME&T. . . .[Science, Mathematics, Engineering, &  Technology]. . . at the postsecondary level continue to blame the  schools for sending underprepared students to them. But, increasingly. . . .[but not conspicuously]. . . .the higher educationcommunity has come to recognize the fact that teachers and principalsin the K-12 system are all people who have been educated at the undergraduate level, mostly in situations in which SME&T programs have not taken seriously enough their vital part of the responsibility for the quality of America's teachers."

In consonance with the above, physicist Don Langenberg (2001, p. 23), (at the time) Chancellor of the University of Maryland System, put it succinctly:

"Although we in higher education are very skillful at ignoring the obvious, it is gradually dawning on some of us that we bear a substantial part of the responsibility for this sad situation [the state of K-12 education]."


How sad is the state of K-12 education in the U.S.? According Schmidt, Houang, & Shakrani (2009):


"The consequences of our scattered approach. . . .[to K-12 education]. . . .are obvious - low standards by international comparisons, mediocre student performance (especially in eighth and twelfth grades), huge inequalities in curricular opportunities, and loss of future job possibilities. . . . Today the performance gap between the most and least proficient students in the United States is among the highest of all OECD countries [OECD (2007)]. Unless the American education system begins to prepare all of its students for post-secondary education and the changing workplace, disturbing trends in international comparisons will only worsen."

A point that I failed to make in the earlier version [Hake (2009)] of this post:

That the “performance gap between the most and least proficient students in the United States  is among the highest of all OECD countries” may well be associated with the fact that (quoting Berliner (2005), “poverty in the US is greater and of longer duration than in other rich nations.”

REFERENCES [Tiny URL's courtesy .]

Berliner, D.C. 2005. "Our Impoverished View of Educational Reform" Teachers College Record, August 02, online at[1].pdf  (852 kB).

BHEF. 2001. Business - Higher Education Forum (a partnership of the American Council on Education and the National Alliance of Business), Winter, "Sharing Responsibility: How Leaders in Business and Higher Education Can Improve America's Schools" online as a 248 kB pdf at .

Hake, R.R. 2009. "Mobilization for Math/Science Education - Role of  Higher Education," online on the OPEN AERA-L archives at .  Post of 13 Jun 2009 16:49:08-0700 to AERA-L, ARN-L, ASSESS, Biopi-L, Chemed-L, EDDRA, EdResMeth,  EvalTalk, Math-Teach, Net-Gold, Phys-L, PhysLrnR, Physoc, POD, & RUME.


Lee, S. 2009."'Mobilization' for Math and Science Education" Inside Higher Ed, 11 June; online at .


NSF. 1996. Shaping the Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology, A Report on its Review of Undergraduate Education by the Advisory Committee to the NSF, chaired by Melvin George, online at .  Also online as a Google book preview at . This report is one of the few that emphasizes the crucial role of higher education in determining the quality of K-12 education.


OECD. 2007. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, "PISA 2006: Science Competencies for Tomorrow's World," online at  (360 kB).


Schmidt, W.H., R. Houang, & S. Shakrani. 2009. "International Lessons About National Standards," online as a 180 kB pdf at .


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