Improving student achievement in math and science

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

One very real challenge facing educators and employers today is the lack of familiarity and enthusiasm our students demonstrate in the areas of math and science. This challenge is and will continue to obstruct Missouri's ability to compete in the global marketplace.

I visited classrooms across the state over the last few months looking for ways we can improve student achievement in these critical areas. It is imperative that we work together to prepare tomorrow's leaders for the challenges facing them in our evolving global economy and that is why I convened a Math and Science Summit. The summit brought the education community, businesses and private organizations together to design strategies to improve learning and create a lifelong interest in subjects that are fast becoming the foundation of our economy and our future.

The four main challenges identified by the group as we move forward are to improve the math and science scores of students in preschool through graduate school, encourage more students to pursue careers in the fields of math and science, expand the pool of our state's preschool through 12th grade math and science educators and increase public awareness about the importance of math and science related industries and jobs in strengthening Missouri's global competitiveness.

In the United States, our fourth graders score high in math and science when compared to other countries. However, by the senior year in high school they do not do very well at all. This must change. In order for our state to remain focused on improving our students' achievement in the areas of math and science, I will appoint an interim working group to use the suggestions generated at the summit to develop an action plan for Missouri. I am directing the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education, Higher Education and Economic Development to create a preschool through graduate school education data and research center. I applaud the efforts of Senator Charlie Shields for his foresight in sponsoring a bill to create a preschool through graduate school council that will identify and help reduce the gaps in our state's education system between high school, college and the workforce.

Educating tomorrow's workforce is the number one public policy priority of my administration. Last year, I signed a budget that increased funding to education by 4.4 percent and this year requested that the General Assembly increase education funding by $167 million and a $17.1 million increase for colleges and universities.

The Math and Science Summit is a critical first step to ensure we are not surpassed by other states and countries that have made these fundamental subjects a priority and that now stand to gain quality jobs and enhanced opportunities for their citizens.

This is one crisis that we must address. This is one challenge we cannot ignore.

Ultimately, this is a test we cannot afford to fail.