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This blog from ASPB's public affairs unit will provide updates on policy developments in Washington and other plant biology news impacting the ASPB community. Please send any news, comments, or suggestions to ASPB's public affairs director, Adam Fagen, at Policy Archives available under Group Pages.


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PCAST Releases Report on Undergraduate STEM Education and Obama Administration Announces New Initiatives

Posted By Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, Friday, February 24, 2012

Lewis-Burke Associates LLC – February 22, 2012

On February 7, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released the report, "Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).” This report on undergraduate education is a follow-up to an earlier PCAST report on K-12 STEM education that was released in September 2010, and both are centered on the goal of creating a STEM-capable workforce. The new report focuses on the first two years of undergraduate learning, which PCAST considers a crucial step in the STEM pipeline.

The recommendations are:

  • Catalyze the adoption of empirically-validated teaching techniques through the alignment of incentives for faculty, the expansion of disciplinary models that prepare new faculty in research-based STEM teaching, and the creation of a new grant program for institutional transformation. The report also recommends that the National Academies create metrics to evaluate STEM undergraduate teaching and learning.
  • Create new research courses for first and second year students to involve students in research early and move away from "cookbook” experiments. Scale-up model research and design courses and change federal rules to allow the expansion of opportunities for students in faculty research laboratories.
  • Engage mathematicians and scientists in a national postsecondary mathematics education experiment to improve math education and ensure that early math courses are connected to science learning needs.
  • Encourage stakeholder partnerships to diversify pathways to STEM careers, including connecting high school students to summer STEM learning opportunities, strengthening pathways from two to four year institutions, and catalyzing the creation of public-private partnerships to advance STEM learning that establishes industry-relevant skills.
  • Create a Presidential council to provide leadership on undergraduate STEM education. This council would involve various stakeholders from academia, business, foundations, and scientific societies to inspire changes to undergraduate education and make recommendations on specific federal activities.

In response to the PCAST report, the President announced new initiatives in the fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request to support the recommendations:

  • Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence-based Reforms (WIDER): $20 million would be provided (a 150 percent increase over FY 2012) to increase the use of evidence-based undergraduate STEM education practices through institutional reforms.
  • Expeditions in Education (E2): NSF would establish a new program E2 to connect EHR with NSF research directorates and offices to "integrate, leverage, and expand STEM education research and development” with NSF research activities. E2 would be supported at $49 million in FY 2013 with a focus on undergraduate education, sustainability, and cyberlearning.
  • K-16 Math Education: NSF will work with the Department of Education to develop an "evidence-based initiative to improve K-16 mathematics and knowledge building.” In FY 2013, the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Education and NSF’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) will each contribute $30 million, with EHR’s support through the Discovery Research K-12 and Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES) programs. Funding for other TUES activities would also be increased.
  • STEM Teacher Training: $80 million would be provided through the Department of Education for a new competitive program as part of the Effective Teachers and Leaders program. The new funding would support STEM teacher preparation programs, such as those modeled on the University of Texas UTEACH program that allows undergraduate students to earn a STEM bachelors degree and a teaching certificate at the same time.

The full PCAST report can be found at

Additional information, including a shorter fact sheet and a webcast of the report release can be found at

Information on the White House commitments announced in response to the report are available at

Tags:  education  PCAST 

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CGS and ETS will explore pathways through graduate school and into careers

Posted By Adam Fagen, Friday, October 14, 2011
The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS) have convened a commission of academic and industry leaders to consider students’ pathways through graduate school and into careers. The need to develop a highly skilled workforce was first addressed in a 2010 landmark report The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States. That report argued that the nation’s future prosperity and ability to compete in the global marketplace depends on producing graduate degree holders prepared to address the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. One major unmet need the report identified was that of understanding pathways through graduate school into the world of professional occupations.

The new commission will guide a research effort addressing issues such as graduate student knowledge of career options and how they learn about them, the role of graduate programs and faculty in informing and guiding students, and the career pathways that those with graduate degrees actually follow. The commission will also help create a national conversation about why understanding of these pathways is important.

The members of the Commission on Pathways through Graduate School and into Careers are listed below:
  • William D. Green, Chairman, Board of Directors, Accenture
  • Stan Litow, President, IBM Foundation, and Senior Vice President, IBM
  • Joseph Miller, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Office, Corning
  • Russ Owen, President, Managed Services Sector, CSC
  • Ron Townsend, Executive Vice President, Battelle Memorial Institute
  • Patrick Osmer (Chair), Vice Provost and Dean, Graduate School, The Ohio State University
  • Jeffery Gibeling, Dean, Graduate Studies, University of California, Davis
  • Maureern Grasso, Dean, Graduate School, University of Georgia
  • Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • Jean Morrison, Provost, Boston University
  • Suzanne Ortega, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of North Carolina
  • Teresa Sullivan, President, University of Virginia
  • Lisa Tedesco, Dean, Laney Graduate School, Emory University
  • James Wimbush, Dean, University Graduate School, Indiana University
  • Kurt Landgraf (ex officio), President and Chief Executive Officer, Educational Testing Service
  • Debra W. Stewart (ex officio), President, Council of Graduate Schools

Tags:  career  education  graduate 

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NRC report says science education should be as important as math and reading

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, June 23, 2011
A new report from the National Research Council calls upon state, national, and local policymakers to elevate K-12 science education to the same level of importance as reading and mathematics.

Commissioned by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics identifies key elements of high-quality STEM education that could be targeted:
  • A coherent set of standards and curricula
  • Teachers with high capacity to teach in their discipline
  • A supportive system of assessment and accountability
  • Adequate instructional time (time spent on elementary science instruction has decreased in recent years, likely because of focus on reading and math in No Child Left Behind Act)
  • Equal access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities
  • School conditions and culture that support learning
The report suggests that one way to elevate science to the same level of importance as mathematics and reading is to assess science subjects as frequently as is done for reading and math, using an assessment system that supports learning and understanding.

The report calls upon policymakers to invest in helping educators in STEM fields teach more effectively, including professional development through peer collaboration and professional learning communities, among other approaches. The report also recommends that school districts should consider specialty schools that are targeted to STEM disciplines.

The study, which was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was authored by a committee chaired by Adam Gamoran, John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Educational Policy Studies and director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Additional information:

Tags:  education  National Academies  NRC 

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USA Science & Engineering Festival draws at least 500,000 to National Mall

Posted By Adam Fagen, Thursday, October 28, 2010
The first USA Science & Engineering Festival was held this past weekend on and around the National Mall in Washington, DC.  Huge crowds came out amid beautiful weather, with The Washington Post estimating more than 500,000 people.

ASPB was well-represented at the festival, organizing an interactive exhibit booth where visitors made Lilliputian Garden Necklaces, thought through the Seeds of Change activity (one of the components of the new inquiry-based activities surrounding the 12 Principles of Plant Biology, a.k.a., the 12 Labs), and watched a sample of videos supported by the ASPB Education Foundation (including winners of the ChloroFilms plant video competition and the sLowlife video).

Thanks especially to ASPB's great group of volunteers:

Roxane Bouten, Mary Clutter, Anne Datko, Rob Donaldson, Elena del Campillo, Chioma Ebiringa, Gary Fleming, Elizabeth Gantt, Thomas Hardy, Courtney Hollender, Sarah Josway, June Kwak, Emily Lin, Zongchi Liu, Bruce McClure, Giullaume Pilot, Rejane Pratelli, Jennifer Shemansky, Janet Slovin, Ganesh Sriram, Hevan Sze, George Ude, Hemayet Ullah, Shunyan Xiao, Gabi Yamoah

A special thanks to Education Committee Chair Erin Dolan and Education Foundation staff Katie Engen for not only staffing the booth, but organizing the details.

We had well more than 1,000 families visit the booth during the festival, and we couldn't have done it without the volunteers' energy and enthusiasm.

See a small sample of photos from the event on ASPB's Facebook page.

(Washington Post)

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  ASPB  education  outreach 

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President Obama hosts White House Science Fair

Posted By Adam P. Fagen, Monday, October 18, 2010

President Obama played host for the White House Science Fair, which celebrated the winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions. This event follows from the President's statement last November: "If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too."

The White House Science Fair kicks off a week that culminates with the USA Science and Engineering Festival on and around the National Mall in Washington, DC, and in 50 satellite locations, poised to engage more than a million people nationwide.

At the White House Science Fair, President Obama will view exhibits of winning student projects, ranging from breakthrough basic research to new inventions, and will deliver remarks congratulating these students on their diligence, desire to tackle hard problems, and drive to invent and discover.

For additional information, see the press announcement from the White House.

(video courtesy of

Tags:  education  President Obama 

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