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Panel Wants Math and Science to Lead School Reform Efforts

An all-star cast of educational leaders gathered this morning to push for a comprehensive reform of U.S. science and math education. The occasion was the release of a report from an outside panel of experts funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The report, called the "Opportunity Equation," argues for not only improving how math and science are taught, but also for putting those subjects at the core of more sweeping changes that would allow the country to "do school differently."

The commission's work received a ringing endorsement in a cheerleading speech from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has echoed its call for "fewer, higher, clearer" state standards that lay out what students should learn. The report, described by a panel of commission members, also said that those common national standards, being drawn up by a voluntary coalition of 46 states, must be accompanied by better tests to measure student achievement, improved training for their teachers, and greater flexibility for schools to pursue innovative strategies. "I'm taking notes," said Representative George Miller (D–CA), who chairs the House of Representatives education panel responsible for reauthorizing the current federal law governing elementary and secondary education, known commonly as "No Child Left Behind."

Duncan and the panelists also cited several programs that are working effectively on a local or state level that need to be scaled up. And everybody agreed that "the time to act is now." As Duncan remarked, "money isn't everything. But it makes a difference. We've got $100 billion to work with, an unprecedented amount. And we'll never have a better chance to get it done."