California World Class Math
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U.S. Needs to Raise Math Standards

Summary: Studies, articles, and reports from numerous panels and commissions, and most recently the National Math Advisory Panel, conclude that America must provide an internationally competitive K-12 math education or its economy will suffer.

  National Academy Advisory Panel Details Raising Standards and Gaining More Top Students

     The 2008 National Math Advisory Panel Report describes the problems in K-12 math education in America and provides a detailed approach to solutions.  It also describes the crisis this country faces because of poor student achievement in mathematics. 

     The National Math Advisory Panel was charged with advising the U.S. Department of Education about how to improve math education in the United States, and it was composed of mathematics professors, mathematicians and teachers from prestigious U.S. universities and organizations, like Vanderbilt, Harvard, Carnegie Foundation, Cornell, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Science Foundation, among others. 

     The report makes specific, timely recommendations as to how to raise standards and improve teaching so that educational outcomes will significantly improve.  It does not present an easy solution; the report states that leaders would be meeting for a decade as they worked to improve the situation.

     Positive results can be achieved in a reasonable time at accessible cost, but
a consistent, wise, community-wide effort will be required. Education in the
United States has many participants in many locales—teachers, students, and
parents; state school officers, school board members, superintendents, and
principals; curriculum developers, textbook writers, and textbook editors; those
who develop assessment tools; those who prepare teachers and help them to
continue their development; those who carry out relevant research; association
leaders and government officials at the federal, state, and local levels.  All carry
responsibilities.  All are important to success.

    The network of these participants is linked through interacting national
associations.  A coordinated national approach toward improved mathematics
education will require an annual forum of their leaders for at least a decade.  The
Panel recommends that the U.S. Secretary of Education take the lead in convening
the forum initially, charge it to organize in a way that will sustain an effective effort,
and request a brief annual report on the mutual agenda adopted for the year ahead.

National Math Advisory Panel Report, p. 12

     The National Math Advisory Panel's research and expertise led to the development of a widely respected roadmap for the establishment of world class, internationally competitive math standards.  The work of this panel should be utilized by any group working to improve national or state educational outcomes in mathematics.

     America Needs Top Students In Mathematics

     Many reports and studies have determined that advances in technology have been at the core of America’s economy, its defense systems, and its citizens’ quality of life but now with easy world-wide communications, companies can shift operations to almost anywhere on the globe. 

     The Nation At Risk was written in 1983, over twenty-five years ago, but its message about the nexus between economic prosperity and education is still timely.  The authors documented poor academic performance of American youth compared to young adults from other countries, and they warned that America’s economic vitality would be drained if the country did not take action to educate its young.

      Ten years later, the 1993 report from a federal panel called National Excellence: The Case for Developing America's Talent also expressed that America’s failure to develop its academic talent will have dire economic consequences to the nation.

      Likewise, in 2000, when John Glenn was chairperson of a national commission investigating science and math education, he wrote that “(o)ur children are falling behind; they are simply not ‘world class learners’ when it comes to mathematics and science.”  The commission’s report is called Before It’s Too Late —A report to the Nation from the National Commission of Mathematics and Science Technology for the 21st Century.

      In 2005, the United States’ National Academies released Rising Above the Gathering Storm which documented the “creeping crisis” described in the reports and studies that preceded it.  The report connected the country’s failure to educate American youth in math and sciences to the inevitable economic storm that will undermine quality of life in America.  The report by this respected national panel was updated in 2007, again emphasizing the need for improving k-12 math and science education.

     In a 2007 report published by the World Bank, economists Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann pinpointed the importance of school quality on economic growth and sustainability.  Their research found that it is not simply years in school but the cognitive skills attained by the population that connects to economic growth.

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