PCAST Tackles Science Education

Does the United States need another high-powered panel recommending ways to improve how students learn science and math?

The President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) thinks the answer is yes. Late last week, the presidentially appointed body heard from two expert panels and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about what governments, academic institutions, and the private sector are doing to raise the quality of teachers, improve the curriculum, and close the achievement gap between rich and poor students. Council members pressed witnesses to explain the theory behind their efforts and provide evidence to back up any reported successes. They also solicited advice on how PCAST might make a unique contribution to the raft of existing reports and analyses.

PCAST would like to get a report to the president within 6 months, says Eric Lander, head of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who will be leading the effort along with Jim Gates, a physics professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. “We have a lot of issues on our plate, but this one is too important to ignore,” Lander said after the 2-day meeting, which ended on Friday.

What aspects of U.S. science education do you think PCAST should focus on?