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Systematic Failures in U.S. Math and Science Infrastructure Threaten Global Leadership

Top Business and Higher Education Leaders Review Latest Education Data; Issue Warning about Future Impact on the Bottom Line

    WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2005  /PRNewswire/ -- Armed with one of the most
comprehensive and current review of data available, top business and higher
education leaders today said that the United States' lackluster performance in
science and math has placed the country in grave danger of losing its
competitive edge in the global marketplace.

    The data -- presented in a new report by the Business-Higher Education
Forum (BHEF) -- are part of a joint effort of the business and higher
education communities to objectively analyze the most recent and up-to-date
information available on America's performance in math and science education.

    "The most recent data about the performance of United Students students in
math and science is cause for deep concern," said William H. Swanson, Chairman
and CEO of Raytheon Company and Co-Chair of the BHEF's Initiative on
Mathematics and Science Education. "Technology is the lifeblood of our country
because innovation builds prosperity and good, quality jobs for our
increasingly diverse workforce. If we don't invest in and improve student
achievement in math and science, there are serious implications for the
business community, the US economy and our quality of life."

    A Commitment to America's Future: Responding to the Crisis in Mathematics
and Science Education, warns that if current trends continue the United States
will lose is preeminence in science and technology and its leadership position
in innovation. Among key data cited in the report:

   * The 2004 Program for International Student Assessment showed that the
     problem-solving skills of American grade 10 students are significantly
     lower than their peers in 25 countries. Specifically, the performance
     of only 42 percent of U.S. students was above the lowest of the
     Program's six levels of problem-solving achievement.

   * Even though the U.S. is in the midst of an undergraduate enrollment
     boom, enrollment rates in countries with emerging economies and
     populations are growing even faster at startling rates, similar to
     those of the United States after World War II. In China, enrollment
     rates are expanding at ten times the rate of the U.S. Two-thirds of all
     Chinese students earn math, science or engineering degrees compared to
     about one-third of American students.

   * The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that, over the decade ending in
     2008, jobs requiring science, engineering, and technical training will
     increase by 51 percent, a rate four times faster than overall job
     growth. In addition, by 2008, some six million job openings for
     scientists, engineers and technicians will exist.

    The report notes that the one source of American inefficiency in math and
science is the lack of holistic, system-wide solutions. For example, the
supply and demand statistics on math and science teachers are not encouraging.
The report indicates that 260,000 to 290,000 new high school math and science
teachers will be needed in the 2008 school year. Yet, even with years of
advance warning, coordinated action is not being taken to recruit and retain
quality teachers.

    "Research repeatedly has pointed to teachers as the key to improving
student achievement," said Dennis Smith, President Emeritus, University of
Nebraska and a Co-Chair of the BHEF Initiative. "To create a highly qualified
teaching force, institutions of higher education must raise the preparation of
mathematics and science teachers to a central role in the mission of their
institutions."

    The BHEF report recommends cohesive long-term tactics to alleviate
pressing systematic problems such as the teacher shortage. Specifically, the
report challenges business, education, and policy leaders to commit to new and
collaborative roles that will advance the development of seamless state
systems of education -- systems that extend from pre-kindergarten to higher
education and the workplace.

    "One of the most important tools recommended by the BHEF report is the
establishment of state-level P-16 councils that include leaders from business,
education and government. These councils, guided by the considerable existing
body of work related to course content, curriculum and standards, will support
school districts in implementing new and innovative strategies to improve the
math and science achievement of all students," said Warren Baker, President of
California Polytechnic State University and the third co-chair of the BHEF
Initiative.

    The full report, A Commitment to America's Future, can be downloaded from
http://www.bhef.com/

    The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) is a non-profit membership
organization of leaders from American businesses, colleges and universities,
museums, and foundations. The purpose of the group is to join together to
examine issues of national importance and, when appropriate, to speak with one
voice by issuing reports, white papers, and policy positions, and by
sponsoring roundtable discussions with elected public officials,
representatives from both the corporate and the academic communities, and with
the general public.

  CONTACT:
   Jennifer Ehrlich
   202-367-2350
   jenifer.ehrlich@bhef.com



SOURCE: Business-Higher Education Forum



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