TNLI Work for 2010-2011: Education Advocacy

Luke Laurie

TNLI Fellow

Summary of Advocacy Work for 2010-2011 School Year

Einstein Summit and HIV Prevention Education



STEM Education, The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, Summer 2010


During the Summer of 2010, I concluded my work from the previous year by taking part in the planning, coordinating, and implementing the 20th Anniversary Summit of the Einstein Fellowship. This year-long project  was implemented by a volunteer committee of former Einstein Fellows, and culminated in a Summit that occurred over 3 days in Washington, D.C. in June of 2010. The highlights of the Summit included: approximately 100 attendees; several whole group sessions and break out sessions on timely STEM education topics; a Congressional Reception; guests from several Federal agencies, the White House, and the Legislative Branch; participation by a few current and former Members of Congress; a Published report of proceedings of the Summit, and a list of ten policy recommendations.


My personal work on the Summit included working on the Planning Committee, Chairing the Program/Agenda subcommittee that developed the topics for the sessions and drafted the program, facilitating the plenary session on STEM education and the Reauthorization of ESEA, and sitting on the panels of the opening plenary session, STEM Education Policy Panel Discussion. I also was the Facilitator of the Einstein Summit Policy Team, which put together the policy recommendations culled from all of the sessions of the Summit, composed a one-page summary, and distributed the recommendations to dozens of lawmakers in the House and Senate. Digitally, these recommendations were distributed to all Capitol Hill staff.


500 copies of the printed report: “From the Classroom to Washington: Einsteins on Education Reform” were printed and distributed by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education.


More information on the Summit can be found at the following URL:


The Report from the Summit can be found here:


The Policy Recommendations can be found here:


Policy Recommendations on the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship


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.

HIV Prevention Education in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District


During the 2010-2011 school year, I spent considerable time pursuing local advocacy by continuing my work to improve HIV prevention education for junior high students in my school district. I had been working on this issue for four years through ongoing communication with other teachers, schools, and administrators. My district had not adopted or purchased new materials nor updated curriculum since before California updated its laws and guidelines governing the mandatory HIV prevention education in 2004.  Several discussions and meetings with Science Department chairs and life science teachers in the 2009-2010 school year had revealed that HIV prevention related health content was being taught with outdated materials, or in some cases not taught at all. Through my work and at my request the district began to hold meetings specifically to deal with this issue, during the 2010-2011 school year, to investigate the nature of what we were and were not teaching, to better understand the State’s requirements in this area, to discuss the sensitive nature of the subject matter, and to explore curriculum resources to help us meet our requirements and duty to our students.


My work included researching legal statutes, consulting State guidelines, talking with staff at the State Department of Education, reading health and sex education research, attending several meetings with administration and science teachers, building an extensive digital collection of resources for teachers, and making a presentation to the school board.


The results of this work allowed our district to create new policies to be in compliance with State law, and to begin the adoption process by piloting the Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum. I can happily report that I faced little resistance from the administration and the school board, though numerous discussions with teachers turned to debates over the nitty-gritty aspects of what and how to teach the sex-related content.


Below, I have included my comments to my school board upon the first introduction of the curriculum, prior to piloting. The remarks and our presentation of the curriculum was met with unanimous support and positive remarks from the entire board.


The curriculum materials were piloted and approved by the science teachers, and will now, during the 2011-2012 school year, go through the process of being cleared by various committees and going back to the school board for a final vote. I will participate in some of the presentations of the materials.


Link to the training workshop slideshow:


Link to the Positive Prevention Red Cross Curriculum:


Comments to the school Board on HIV Prevention Curriculum Pilot


I thank the board for allowing me to speak this evening,


In the field of education, we’re always operating within an economy of scarcity. Far from an ideal system for serving the needs of our students, we do not have not enough money, nor enough time, and we have too many students with tremendous needs; academic, social, behavioral, emotional and physical.


In the standards-based educational push of the last decade, we were caught up in fervor to enhance academic learning, specifically, of course, Math and Language Arts. Because resources and time are scarce, schools across the country eliminated programs and courses in the fine arts, health education, physical education, and even science. With this unbalanced approach, we were doing less to educate the whole child.


In our district, we haven’t done enough in recent years to provide our students with the health information and skills they need to make good choices about their sexual health.


The HIV Prevention Education requirement in State law is there to address issues that are vital to our youth. A large fraction of our students are sexually active, and many lack the knowledge and behavioral skills to protect themselves from disease or unintended pregnancy. Santa Barbara County has a teen pregnancy rate for latinas that is the highest rate in the State at 9%. That’s nearly 1 in 10 of our latina population, and three times the average rate for all California teens.


We all know that the challenges for teens who become parents are numerous. And challenging too, are the lives of our students who are being raised by young people who became parents too early themselves. We all bear the costs. And while the Red Cross curriculum is not specifically focused in preventing teen pregnancy, the same knowledge and skills they will gain from learning to prevent HIV will also prevent pregnancy and other sexually transmitted diseases.


The Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum provides a framework that teaches the means of transmission and prevention of HIV, but it also includes lessons on behavior and decision making, as well as identifying and avoiding risky situations, and developing refusal skills. The material in this curriculum is presented in a manner that is useful to teachers, and provides them with tools for handling controversial subjects sensitively.


I strongly encourage the board to support this committee’s work and to move forward with the pilot program for the Positive Prevention Curriculum. I also would like to encourage the board to support other improvements in health and sexual health education to provide our students with vital information and skills that will help them live healthy lives.


Thank you.

HIV Prevention Education

Blog Post- Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog

My last post was on the need for sex education. In California, even though comprehensive sex education is not mandatory for all school districts, providing HIV prevention education to all students is required. The development of an HIV prevention program is up to local districts, but some very strict requirements mandate that this instruction informs students of many of the health risks and behavioral choices that will reduce teen pregnancy and disease transmission.

I’ve been studying this topic in great detail, and have found many interesting statistics and facts along the way. This information does not represent the policy or attitudes of my school district, nor does it represent any kind of requirement on teachers. These are merely concepts to be considered during the development of a successful program.

HIV Prevention Education Key Points

1) HIV is a great threat, affecting over a million people in the U.S. Heterosexual transmission is accounting for more of the new cases. Many new cases are amongst teens and young adults. HIV rates in Santa Barbara County, fortunately, are relatively low.

2) Teen pregnancy rates (and rates of intercourse) nationwide have been falling significantly since their peak around 1988. Great disparities exist between races, with Latina teens universally having the highest rates. The current rate for Latinas in Santa Barbara County is one of the highest rates in the State of California (9%). By comparison, however, this rate is better than the rate for teens overall in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.

3) Youth are engaged in risky behaviors at high rates, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex, with 61% of teens reporting that they used a condom during last intercourse. The rate of condom use, though, is actually much higher than it used to be, and has risen steadily in the last several years. In 1991, the rate of condom use in last intercourse was only 46%.

4) Under the law, HIV prevention education is part of the statute with the following purpose: “To provide a pupil with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect his or her sexual and reproductive health from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” AND “To encourage a pupil to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender roles, sexual orientation, dating, marriage, and family.”

5) Abstinence-only education is illegal in California. HIV prevention programs must emphasize that abstinence as the only 100% effective method of preventing HIV, STDs, and pregnancy, but also must teach that condoms are highly effective and should be used during any sexual activity. Instruction must also specifically teach the means of transmission of HIV: anal, oral, and vaginal sex, contact with blood, and intravenous drug use.

6) Instruction must be free of religious doctrine, and provided free of bias to GBLTQ (gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and questioning) youth.

7) STD’s, their symptoms, and means of transmission must be included in HIV prevention programs. (This point may not be clear when studying California law as written, it appears to be omitted from HIV prevention education requirements when not part of a comprehensive se education program. However, there is additional guidance and justification for including all STD’s in any HIV prevention curriculum. I will hopefully address this item in a later post, along with a recommendation to the legislature to revise the statute to match the necessary practice.)

8) HIV prevention education must include lessons on behavior and decision making, as well as identifying and avoiding risky situations, and developing refusal skills.

9) HIV prevention education does not cover topics such as contraception other than male and female condoms, abortion, nor other issues relevant to pregnancy, birth, prenatal care, or human development.

10) California Health and Science standards provide strong direction for the instruction that should be included in an HIV prevention unit.

11) The Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum was developed in conjunction with health agencies and the California Department of Education to specifically meet all the requirements of the HIV prevention requirement, without including content specific to Comprehensive Sex Education.

The Need for Sex Education

Effective sex education and HIV/STD prevention programs delay sexual activity, increase condom use, and promote healthy attitudes in youth.

California has one of the most progressive policies for teaching comprehensive sex education, and has a strong mandate for teaching HIV prevention lessons, even when a full sex education program is not offered. Yet, too often, the subject of health is short-changed in schools because of a standards-based regime of annual assessments and time encroachments by the core curriculum: specifically Math and English.

But health needs are paramount in the lives of youth. Without accurate knowledge of their bodies and the risk and development of good communication and behavioral skills, youth are at risk for a variety of diseases, pregnancy, and other potential dangers. The newest Health standards issued by the State of California cover a broad array of issues dealing with all aspects of becoming healthy people, including social, emotional, physical, and sexual health. I’m currently involved in a project to improve the sexual health of students in my district, and I’ve found some very compelling data to highlight this need.

I will have a later post that will list many data resources on HIV,STD’s, Teen Pregnancy, and Risky Behaviors in Youth

Note on the Data below:

The following data are derived from different sources using different methodologies, and may also represent slightly different age groups. For example, one set of data may say “high school students”, while another may refer to students age 15-19. Some are based on nationwide surveys, another may be raw data of numbers of cases reported to public health officials.

These numbers are based primarily on National Averages- this is not a region-specific analysis, yet the birthrate and pregnancy rate is derived from State data specific to Latina teens.

For every 100 Junior High students:

6 of the students have already had sex, or will have sex before the age of 14

By the Time Your Students Finish High School

46 of them will have had sex.

55 of them (more than half) will have Oral Sex.

14 will have four or more sexual partners

11 of them will have anal sex with someone of the opposite sex

3 of the males will have anal sex with another male.

7 of the girls will have intercourse against their will.

20 will contract an STD of some kind

7 of the girls will get pregnant.

4 will give birth.

2 will have abortions.

And, if you were to ask 100 students during their high school years,

20 of them did not use a condom during their last sexual intercourse.

For Santa Maria:

Many of our Junior High students are already sexually active. Most of the data above is based on National Averages. The Pregnancy Rate of our Latina teens (included in the above) is twice the national average. Therefore, it is highly probable that the rates of risky behaviors are also much higher than the national averages.

According to the CDC:

Effective HIV/STD and Pregnancy Prevention programs should address the needs of youth who are not engaging in sexual intercourse as well as youth who are currently sexually active.

Well-designed programs have been shown to decrease sexual risk behaviors, including:

  • Delaying first sexual intercourse
  • Reducing the number of sex partners
  • Decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex
  • Increasing condom use


1CDC Healthy Youth! “Sexual Risk Behaviors”

2CDC “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 2009

3Guttmacher Institute “U.S. Teen Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by State and Ethnicity

4CDPH “STD Sexually Transmitted Diseases in California 2008

5CDC Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2008

6Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2008