Legislative Update: Improve STEM Proficiency, Lifelong Learning Accounts, Community College Energy Training, STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities

The House is in recess until May 23rd. The following bills were introduced recently:

Education Agenda to Improve STEM Proficiency

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) introduced S. 969, an innovation education agenda as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The bill would award planning and implementation grants to state educational agencies to implement activities integrating engineering into K-12 instruction and curriculum. Additionally, evaluation grants would be provided to assess the performance of the program. The bill aims to graduate more STEM students, attract more STEM teachers, and raise science proficiency to restore America’s competitiveness.

Lifelong Learning Accounts Act

Rep. John Larson (CT) and several others reintroduced H.R. 1869, the Lifelong Learning Accounts Act (LiLA). The bill promotes continuing education as a way to improve job skills and promote workers’ marketability. LiLA would create worker-owned, employer-matched savings accounts to incentivize career-related skill development and to promote a competitive workforce through lifelong learning.

Community College Energy Training Act

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM) introduced H.R. 1881, the Community College Energy Training Act, to help community colleges provide clean energy workforce training. The bill would require the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Labor to establish a program at community colleges for workforce training in sustainable energy. The legislation currently has 24 cosponsors.

STEM for Girls, Underrepresented Minorities

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (CA) reintroduced H.R. 1903 to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide schools with grants to encourage girls and underrepresented minorities in fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Woolsey says that it’s important to address gender and racial gaps in the STEM field to provide more opportunities for all students, and also as a smart economic strategy for the country.

via NASDCTEC.

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An Open Letter From Arne Duncan to America’s Teachers

I have worked in education for much of my life. I have met with thousands of teachers in great schools and struggling schools, in big cities and small towns, and I have a deep and genuine appreciation for the work you do. I know that most teachers did not enter the profession for the money. You became teachers to make a difference in the lives of children, and for the hard work you do each day, you deserve to be respected, valued, and supported.

I consider teaching an honorable and important profession, and it is my goal to see that you are treated with the dignity we award to other professionals in society. In too many communities, the profession has been devalued. Many of the teachers I have met object to the imposition of curriculum that reduces teaching to little more than a paint-by-numbers exercise. I agree.

Inside your classroom, you exercise a high degree of autonomy. You decide when to slow down to make sure all of your students fully understand a concept, or when a different instructional strategy is needed to meet the needs of a few who are struggling to keep up. You build relationships with students from a variety of backgrounds and with a diverse array of needs, and you find ways to motivate and engage them. I appreciate the challenge and skill involved in the work you do and applaud those of you who have dedicated your lives to teaching.

Many of you have told me you are willing to be held accountable for outcomes over which you have some control, but you also want school leaders held accountable for creating a positive and supportive learning environment. You want real feedback in a professional setting rather than drive-by visits from principals or a single score on a bubble test. And you want the time and opportunity to work with your colleagues and strengthen your craft.

You have told me you believe that the No Child Left Behind Act has prompted some schools—especially low-performing ones—to teach to the test, rather than focus on the educational needs of students. Because of the pressure to boost test scores, NCLB has narrowed the curriculum, and important subjects like history, science, the arts, foreign languages, and physical education have been de-emphasized. And you are frustrated when teachers alone are blamed for educational failures that have roots in broken families, unsafe communities, misguided reforms, and underfunded schools systems. You rightfully believe that responsibility for educational quality should be shared by administrators, community, parents, and even students themselves.

Read more.

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