The Economy and Education- Inextricably Tied

Hello world,

I’ve been away from blogging for a while.

Education funding is suffering mightily in the current economic downturn- as tax dollars drop, so goes education. This is not inevitable. Repeatedly, liberals have attempted to structure education funding mechanisms that were not so acutely tied to revenues. Their efforts are consistently thwarted at every level by conservatives who attempt avoid funding public schools.

The compromise that is inevitably reached in this power struggle is that school funding is inextricably tied to variable and fragile funding streams that vary with fluctuations in the economy, and variations in tax rates. Consequently, when taxes are cut, schools also suffer.

When taxes are cut in an attempt to create stimulus, during a period of economic downturn and low tax revenues, schools are hit doubly. Localities are then hit with devastating choices of loss of personnel, school closures, large classes, eliminated programs and services, and inevitably: education decline.

There are young people’s lives caught in this power struggle. Kids who need help, attention, and special services. Kids who need sports, or music, or technology to thrive; denied.

The economic downturn is wreaking havoc on education funding. There is no lesser need for high quality education during recessions. History has shown quite the opposite- that boosts to education and retraining during downturn and vital to economic recovery.

I beg our leaders to find a way. I urge conservatives to stop placing public education in the same category as expendable services.

The Robotics Science Class in 5 minutes or less

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

My Robotics science class was the focus of a five minute presentation I recently did at Microsoft’s Mountain View facility, as a Semifinalist for the STEMposium competition, on March 12, 2011. Below are the slides from the presentation, and the script of my remarks.

My name is Luke Laurie. Today I’m going to tell you about the Robotics Science Class that I’ve been teaching for seven years.

Let me tell you a few things about myself.

Science Teacher 13 years -El Camino Junior High in Santa Maria, CA I teach a student population who are mostly English Language Learners, and almost all live in poverty. My school is not unlike many schools in California.

MESA Advisor 13 years -MESA is a statewide program focused on hands-on activities and college attainment in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science

RoboChallenge Director 10 years -A collaborative regional program funded in part by grants from UCSB, providing robotics materials, competition rules, audio-visual and web-based resources, and teacher support to several schools.

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow- in the U.S. House of Representatives with Congressman Mike Honda, where I worked for a year on Education and Science Policy

and… I Still play LEGOs

From all of my experience in various STEM programs and STEM education policy, it is clear to me that

STEM must be a part of the core curriculum.

In our schools:

We teach science

And we teach Math

but our students need to know more. We need to ensure that they all have opportunities to explore the concepts of technology and engineering too.

To me, it’s artificial to teach Science without integrating technology, engineering, and mathematics. That’s why I created the Robotics Science Class.

 

Kids need more STEM experiences and they need to begin them at a young age to have meaningful impact on their lives.

To change the face of STEM, we need to remove the barriers that keep STEM out of reach for most of our students.

The best STEM education programs don’t require high costs or major sacrifices, nor steep qualifications to participate. Good STEM education needs to be easy to access.

Unfortunately, too often, STEM programs don’t reach the student populations that need them the most, and target their efforts only at small teams in after school settings, or to select students during summer programs.

We do have a way to reach all students with high quality STEM education. We have our public schools. And in our schools we need to look at what we’re doing, and make STEM an integral part of our curriculum, and we must implement policies to provide schools with the technical resources, and training they need.

By making my class open to all students, during the school day, and part of the core curriculum, I have enabled hundreds of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain STEM skills and experience they might not otherwise have had.

My students learn that there are tremendous career opportunities for people with STEM skills, and STEM skills are becoming increasingly important to all careers.

The Robotics Science Class integrates California 8th grade physical science standards with the design, construction, and programming of autonomous robots for a variety of fun and interesting challenges.

Students are learning all the California State Standards for Science, including conceptual physics, chemistry, and astronomy, while also learning to use computers and robotics materials as creative tools to solve complex problems.

The Robotics Science Class adds technology and engineering to the science curriculum in a manner that is effective and efficient.

The class primarily uses low cost, durable, flexible, and easy to use LEGO Mindstorms robotics materials, but we’ve used other materials too.

Some of our challenges have included Tug O’War, Sumo, Linefollowing, Robotic Soccer, and Robotic Exploration.

Students learn computer programming concepts using an object-based programming environment where they aren’t stuck dealing with syntax errors and arcane symbols, and instead can focus on the logic of their programs and how to use the sensors and motors to control their robots.

Robotics is a great way to bring all of the aspects of STEM together. Kids love robots, and the idea of working on them is highly motivating. I believe that with more classes like my Robotics Science Class, we will vastly improve STEM education in California.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.

If you wish more information on my class or other STEM work I do, please send me an email, or visit my website or blog.

Thank you.

 

Media from the Einstein Summit

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

I was fortunate enough to have participated in the Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, where I met with friends new and old for the purpose of improving STEM education nationwide. Many photos from this event have been posted on the web. Some links to photos, video, and the Einstein Summit Report are below.

Me and Art: The Big Lebofsky

Making a Point on the STEm education Panel

Me and my kids at the welcome reception.

Mad scientist turned stern moderator.

 

Tons more media:

Picasa Web Album

Picasa- whole group photos

Photos from the Wilson Center

Video of part of the Summit from the Wilson Center

The Einstein Summit Report (.pdf)

 

Policies to Improve STEM Education: Focus on K-6

Blog Post at Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

The following was delivered as my opening remarks during the STEM education Policy Panel during the Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, which occured at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars on June 27 and 28, 2010.


While I believe in the importance of STEM at all levels, I believe we should focus our policies on improving STEM education at the elementary school level.

We need high quality science education in every elementary school, in every elementary classroom, for every child, regardless of language ability, disability, or income. There is no policy that will have as significant or far reaching effects as one that would ensure that all students have a strong foundation of hands-on science and technical experiences, practice with logical and critical thinking skills, and a knowledge base of facts about the world around them.

The fact of the matter is, that the K-6 STEM education pipeline is like the natural gas pipeline Sarah Palin brags about. It doesn’t exist. There are places where great science instruction is occurring for young students. These places are exceptions. We need a rule. We have been putting some modest resources into Math achievement in elementary schools, or at least test score improvement, but science, technology, and pre-engineering lessons have largely gone the way of the dinosaur, the Pontiac, and safe offshore drilling.

We will not be successful if we just impose science curriculum or science standards and testing on elementary schools without considering the workforce that would implement it, our elementary teachers; and the resources they have available for STEM, which, by and large, do not exist.

Our elementary teachers, for whom I have great respect, are, on a whole, unprepared and lack sufficient resources to effectively teach science. Those that do have the skill and ambition to teach it often must do so in spite of administrative directives. The increased emphasis on Mathematics and Language Arts has greatly limited the time teachers have to devote to science, not to mention art, music, physical education and other subjects.

Thus, an effective policy would need to train current elementary teachers, improve teacher preparation programs in STEM, provide specialists to coach and teach science in elementary schools, would mandate that comprehensive STEM instruction would occur and that sufficient time would be devoted to it, and would also provide the financial resources to bring science materials and labs to every school.

My experience working in the House of Representatives with Congressman Mike Honda enlightened me to some jurisdictional issues that can act as impediments to improving STEM education.   Perhaps other panelists can enlighten me as to how these issues have evolved in the 3 years since my Fellowship and the beginning of the Obama Administration.

The problem goes like this: I was working on legislative concepts that would best be described as fitting the topic: Science Education, not unlike the policies I just described.

When I discussed these concepts with staff on the Education and Labor Committee, or other knowledgeable professionals, I was told that Science Education was the jurisdiction Science Committee. Indeed, when I looked through the budget for the Department of Education, the only program I found related to science was the Math and Science Partnerships, which certainly don’t impact all schools for what I had in mind, and usually did not impact elementary schools. Also, if you searched the Department of Education website at that time you would find no resources related to science, only links to outside organizations.

Taking these legislative ideas over to the science committee produced similar results. “Oh, you want to do something with K-12, well that’s the Education Committee.” “But this is Science education.” “Oh, well can we turn this into a grant from NSF?”

It seems that the standard path for impacting K-12 STEM education from the Federal level is to create grant programs and other outreach programs that are administered through colleges and universities, and indirectly impact a small number of students in K-12. The vast majority of elementary students are not impacted by such programs.

This is an issue of national significance. We can’t rely on piecemeal grants, small scale experiments, inconsistent industry partnerships, charter schools, or blind faith to ensure that STEM education will happen everywhere in the United States. We need a bold, clear, national policy that will make it happen.

Policy Recommendations on the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship

Today Albert Einstein Fellows will be visiting the offices of Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to discuss the importance of having teachers involved in public policy. After the conclusion of our Summit at the Wilson Center, we developed a one page document of policy recommendations to distribute. The text of that document follows.

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows, some of the nation’s leading educators, gathered in Washington, DC on June 28-29, 2010, for a 20th Anniversary Summit.  Hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Summit brought together more than 80 current and former Einstein Fellows along with distinguished guest speakers from the White House, Federal agencies, national education organizations, and the U.S. Congress.  The goal of the Summit was to generate recommendations to inform and improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The Summit covered a variety of educational issues, including national curriculum standards, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and educational equity.

Recommendations of the Einstein Fellows:

  • Support initiatives to enable school systems to implement innovative teaching practices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
  • Increase funding for Pre-K-12 education, especially programs that impact each child as opposed to competitive grants.  Federal funding is vital to the maintenance and development of STEM programs in states and districts.
  • Establish national standards for science education and support provisions in the reauthorization of ESEA that give equal treatment to science as to mathematics and language arts. Science knowledge and skills, as part of a comprehensive STEM approach, are vital for all students and provide 21st Century workforce skills, promote national security and global competitiveness.
  • Include K-12 teachers, such as Einstein Fellows, in the formulation of professional development or curriculum.  The real world experience of classroom teachers is an overlooked asset when new programs are developed.
  • Base school and student assessment on multiple measures and formative assessments.
  • Create and fund a program to place science specialists to teach and coach in elementary schools.  Elementary schools can benefit from the presence of competent STEM teachers who also have skills in working with K-12 students.  They can teach STEM and also model effective strategies as instructional coaches.
  • Support legislation that encourages research-based instruction and teacher training.
  • Support federal programs to purchase science equipment and provide STEM training to teachers at the K-6 grade levels.  This will enable the delivery of inquiry-based, hands-on science experiences.
  • Establish guidelines to ensure all administrators are competent and knowledgeable in STEM education.  Student success and instructional quality depends on strong school leadership.
  • Support initiatives and funding to enable states and districts to lengthen the school day or school year.

Planning the Program for the E20 Summit

Blog Post at Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog : https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

Teacher’s Network Leadership Institute Fellow, Policy Work for 2009-2010

The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit:

Planning the Program

Introduction:

During the 2009-2010 school year I committed myself to engaging in policy work, rather than action research. My initial plan was to advocate for policies to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. Little did I know, I would be swept up by a project that would become a national summit of leading STEM educators.

Background:

This year, 2010, marks the 20th Anniversary of the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship, also known as the Einstein Fellowship. This unique program brings teachers of science and mathematics to Washington, D.C. to work in the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and various federal government agencies, such as the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and NOAA. Recipients of the fellowship are known as Einstein Fellows. They serve one-year terms living and working in Washington, D.C. With their extensive classroom knowledge, experience, and credentials, Einstein Fellows provide practical insights and “real world” perspectives to policy makers and program managers.

From 2006-2007, I served as an Einstein Fellow in the office of Congressman Mike Honda. During my fellowship, I had many opportunities to learn about policy, legislation, and government. I also had the opportunity to contribute to policy by advising the Congressman on education, appropriations, and environmental issues, and by participating in briefings and roundtable discussions on those issues. My work focused on education equity, enhancing science education, and improving the understanding of global warming. Following my fellowship year, I returned to the classroom, to continue my career teaching junior high science and robotics in Santa Maria, CA.

Summary of Work:

In Fall of 2009, I joined a group of former Einstein Fellows in conversations about the possibility of holding an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship, by bringing Fellows from the last 20 years together for an event in Washington D.C.. We formed a Planning Committee of fellows who were committed to spending a significant amount of time making all the decisions and preparations that would be necessary. Through numerous conference calls and thousands of emails, this grassroots event evolved to become the Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit (called the E20 Summit by the Planning Committee), which will be held in Washington, D.C. from June 27 through June 30, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. This summary was written after the planning process was complete, but prior to the actual Summit.

The Planning Committee conceptualized the event to be less of a celebration, and more of an opportunity to have a meeting of minds, to share ideas and build upon the vast and varied experiences of Einstein Fellows. We divided the work into three subcommittees: Fundraising; Logistics and Budget; and Program. The Fundraising Subcommittee successfully harnessed the support of government agencies, science and education organizations, and industry partners to provide funding to carry out the objectives of the E20 Summit. The Logistics and Budget Subcommittee coordinated the venues, vendors, and bookkeeping. I took leadership of the Program Subcommittee and became the Chair to coordinate the development of the substantive components of the Summit.

The goals of the E20 Summit, as stated in our proposal, were as follows:

  • Publish and disseminate a formal report of the E20 Summit proceedings with key recommendations to inform ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind) and improve STEM education;
  • Recognize the accomplishments of Einstein Fellows and their collective contributions to policy, programs and the advancement of K-12 STEM education;
  • Promote the professional capabilities of Einstein Fellows, and other nationally recognized teachers, to national, state and local STEM education stakeholders;
  • Illustrate the efficacy of the Einstein Fellowship program as a best practice of STEM policy inclusion for teachers and professional development model;
  • Formalize and strengthen the Einstein Fellowship network.

It was a joy to work with the other members of the Planning Committee and the Program Subcommittee. On many aspects we shared common goals. Where we disagreed, we discussed our differences in a constructive manner and found compromises that everyone could accept. All participants had served as Einstein Fellows within the last twenty years in various offices and agencies, and were from many different parts of the United States. Most were science teachers of various disciplines, and some taught mathematics. The wealth of knowledge and experience in the group was incredible. Each Fellow had many valuable connections that we were able to draw from as valuable resources to implement the goals of the Summit.

The Program Subcommittee formulated the content of the Summit. Through a lengthy brainstorming process and a series of collaborative discussions, the Subcommittee created a list of possible topics around which workshops, panel discussions, or roundtable discussions could be created. The group solicited input from active members of the Planning Committee, as well as other Fellows who might attend the Summit. From this input, we created a schedule covering topics pertinent to Einstein Fellows, and relevant to the current national dialog on STEM education. We assigned facilitators to manage the sessions and worked with them to connect with experienced speakers and panelists in positions of authority within the appropriate fields. Throughout this development process, all relevant information was compiled into a document that would become the final Program for the Einstein 20th Anniversary Summit.

The final Program is a 21-page document, and includes the following elements:

  • A welcome statement
  • A description of the three locations for events, The Wilson Center, The Rayburn House Office Building, and The J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C.
  • A brief agenda summary
  • A detailed program of all sessions and events
  • The text of H.Res. 1322, a Congressional Resolution Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship, which passed the House on June 15, 2010.
  • A list of the Planning Committee and Subcommittee members.
  • Brief biographic information about all of the facilitators, panelists, and featured guests
  • A full list of approximately 200 Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows from the first 20 years.
  • A list of sponsors and supporters

Looking Ahead:

Following the Summit, a report of the findings will be published by the Wilson Center and distributed nationally. In addition, we will be forming an Einstein Policy Team, which will work to promote and advocate for ways to improve STEM education using the findings of the Summit. The Einstein Policy Team will be involved in advocacy at the local, State, and National level. It is our hope that through this advocacy, we will be able to make notable contributions and give teachers a stronger voice.

More info on the Summit can be found at the official website:

http://sites.google.com/site/einstein20summit/

STEM Education and the Reauthorization of ESEA

Seeking Discussion Panelists for the Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit-

Session: STEM Education and the Reauthorization of ESEA

UPDATE: The participants on this panel have been selected.

More information on the Summit can be found here:

http://sites.google.com/site/einstein20summit/