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Does ‘No Child’ Draft Shortchange Science?

congressCongress has begun work on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which became known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) during the Bush years. The Obama Administration wants to greatly overhaul the measure to ensure more students graduate career- and college-ready, and the Department of Education’s “blueprint” for a new ESEA has largely won warm reviews from lawmakers in both parties. But, the American Institute of Physics (AIP) is unhappy that the proposal doesn’t put more emphasis on science education.

A recent edition of FYI, a science policy bulletin published by AIP, notes that the Administration isn’t changing a key part of the act — the accountability regime used by states to show how well their schools are progressing, a metric used to dole out federal funds. Under NCLB, states must use math and reading test scores in their accountability system; the inclusion of science scores is optional. Not only does that not change under the proposed plan, AIP notes, but states would also be allowed to include any number of other subjects. The AIP fears that could make states even less willing to include science tests. Indeed, it adds, there is no incentive at all for states to include science scores.

However, AIP does like a proposed plan for competitive STEM grants. The money could be used for “implementing high-quality instruction in at least mathematics or science and may also include technology or engineering.”

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