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Effort to back federal math-and-science-education bill succeeds
Birgeneau contributes to higher-ed lobbying effort in days leading up to passage

| 22 August 2007

A federal bill to strengthen K-12 math-and-science education was signed into law by President Bush on Aug. 9. The America COMPETES Act authorizes significant and sustained federal funding to create and expand programs to improve science and mathematics education at all levels. It also includes valuable provisions to expand research support for outstanding young researchers.

In the days preceding the bill's passage by both houses of Congress, 10 higher-education leaders wrote jointly to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to express their support for it. In addition to Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, signatories included leaders from Yale University, Princeton University, UC San Diego, Cornell University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Washington University in St. Louis, Stony Brook University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"As leaders in higher education," the letter stated, "we see every day the need in this country for greatly improved science and mathematics education at the K-12 level - a need that we strongly believe can best be addressed by ensuring the means to educate and train thousands of highly qualified teachers."

In particular, the university leaders strongly supported the bill's establishment of the new National Science Foundation Teacher Fellows and Master Teacher Fellows programs that are largely based on Math for America, the successful New York City pilot program that recruits, trains, and retains highly qualified math teachers.

Said Birgeneau: "In order for universities to be able to produce the scientists and engineers on which our country's economic prosperity depends, we need entering students to be prepared to learn college-level math and science. We know, from study after study, that one of the most important factors in preparing young people for college is the quality of their teachers at the middle- and high-school levels.

"Our nation's public schools must have highly skilled teachers that are thoroughly trained in math and science. The National Academy of Sciences recognized this when it issued the 'Gathering Storm' report calling on Congress to invest in math and science education in K-12 to retain and strengthen our nation's preeminence in the world economy."