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AMS Committee on Education Annual Report, 2000

Chair: Roger Howe, Yale University

The Committee sponsored an address at the Joint Mathematics Meetings, January 2000, Washington DC, by Dr. Judith Sunley, Interim Director of the National Science Foundationís Education and Human Resources Division. Issues addressed during the year via e-mail have included the Open Letter to Secretary of Education Richard Riley from several mathematicians concerning evaluations of school mathematics curricula (and NCTMís response to that letter), the CBMS Mathematics Education of Teachers project, and Bills introduced in Congress concerning K-12 science, mathematics, engineering and technology education. A subcommittee of eight mathematicians was appointed to review the draft report produced by the CBMS Mathematics Education of Teachers project. David Bressoud was appointed CoE liaison to the MAA Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics.

The Committee held its annual meeting in October; a summary report of that meeting follows.

Report on the COE Meeting, October 27-28, 2000, Washington DC

The CoE meeting was larger than usual, with seventeen chairs of doctorate-granting mathematics departments also attending. This expansion was first tried at the spring CSP meeting and, as a result of positive feedback from chairs, it is hoped to make it a feature of future meetings.

A theme of this meeting was the involvement of research mathematicians (including some CoE members) in the many current attempts by a variety of government and non-government groups to improve various components of K-12 mathematics education -- standards and assessment, textbooks, teacher training and professional development, and teacher certification. In addition, representatives from the National Science Foundation discussed several initiatives that will affect departments of mathematics, including the VIGRE program, and the just announced Mathematical Sciences Initiative.

Some highlights:

Council on Competitiveness
This industry group has developed an animated and interactive Internet Learning Network, where students, teachers and parents can work on mathematics problems from TIMSS. The URL is

Achieve, Inc.
This organization was created after a 1996 national education summit of state governors and business leaders; it works with states to pool resources to raise standards and try to align assessment with curriculum. Focusing initially on middle school grades, Achieve is working with a few "partner states" (Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin), in a Mathematics Achievement Partnership (MAP). CoE looked at a draft set of mathematics expectations of what all students should know by the end of 8th grade. Also part of this ambitious project is the development of guides for states on curriculum and teacher professional development to help students reach the expectations, and an internationally benchmarked 8th grade mathematics assessment so that results can be compared across states. The aim is to have the materials ready for use in the fall of 2001; an invitation to join MAP will be extended to all states during the 2000-2001 school year; 8th grade assessment will be conducted in spring 2002.

Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution
A September 2000 report, "How well are American students learning? Focus on Math Achievement", found that a clear picture of national achievement in mathematics is complicated by a divergence of the two national NAEP tests -- the trend test, which emphasizes arithmetic, and the newer main test, which is governed by a framework reflecting the NCTM standards and is weighted towards geometry and problem-solving. The report found that achievement in mathematics has risen since the 1970s, but only at a snailís pace, with younger students (9 and 13) making greater progress than 17 year olds. Some recommendations: Studies of the divergence of the two NAEP tests are needed, as is specific reporting of skill areas to make results useful; calculators should not be permitted on the 4th grade test, and should be confined to problem-solving on the 8th grade test; the report also looked at schools designated as exemplary by federal and state awards programs ("Blue Ribbon schools") and recommended that high achievement should be the distinguishing characteristic of schools that receive these awards, and that awards for other accomplishments should be labeled for whatever quality is being honored.

AAAS/Project 2061
A recent evaluation of 12 algebra textbooks had not found any outstanding material, and had reported those texts considered to have the potential for helping students learn algebra (7), and those with little or no potential (5).

Education Trust
This organization looked at state licensing of teachers of mathematics and the tests given. The report, "Not Good Enough" outlined the disturbing findings. For elementary and middle school teachers, at least two-thirds of the test questions were middle school level; none exceeded high school level. For secondary mathematics teachers, most of the test content differed little from a high school test. Teachers were not expected to know much more than their students would be expected to know. The issue of the passing scores expected by states was also a concern.

National Science Foundation
Philippe Tondeur, DMS Director, outlined the new Mathematical Sciences Initiative, a 5-year plan of increased funding for mathematics, beginning with the FY 2002 budget, in three key areas: fundamental mathematics research, interdisciplinary science and engineering collaborations, and mathematics education. In presenting this initiative to the National Science Board, Rita Colwell, NSF Director, said the agency needs to triple its commitment to mathematics over the coming years to reverse years of decline. NSFís budget for mathematics would increase from US$106 million in FY 2000 to over US$400 million by 2007. Grant size and duration would be increased, along with support for graduate students and postdoctorates. CoE members discussed the opportunities for mathematicians offered by this new initiative. CoE also discussed the impact of VIGRE grants (for vertical integration of research and education in the mathematical sciences) on departments. Also discussed were details of the recently approved FY 2001 NSF budget, in which EHR came out well, with an increase of about 8 percent. Tondeur encouraged mathematicians to apply for program director positions at NSF. A search is currently being conducted for an assistant director of EHR and CoE members were encouraged to submit nominations.

Congressman Vernon Ehlersí Education Bills
During 2000, Rep. Ehlers had introduced three education bills, and CoE members had been invited to comment on them. Staff from Ehlers office broke the bad news at the meeting that the House had the previous day voted down the bill thought to have the best chance of passage, given its uncontroversial nature and bipartisan support. Ehlers will reintroduce the bills in the next Congress and CoE members were encouraged to send suggestions for improving them before their reintroduction. Ehlers led the House study of mathematics and science education a few years ago, which led to the creation of the Glenn Commission (several CoE members participated in hearings). The Commissionís report was recently released, and will undoubtedly generate more education bills next year.

Teacher Preparation and Development
CoE member Jim Lewis was a member of two committees that examined different aspects of the mathematical preparation of teachers, and professional development. He discussed draft/prepublication reports from the CBMS Mathematics Education of Teachers Project, and the National Research Councilís Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation. The CBMS report is aimed at faculty in mathematics departments, and recommends serious focus on the mathematics that teachers will need. The NRC report argues that teacher education should be seen as a seamless experience, with ongoing teacher development, using the medical school model.

Mathematics Education Research: A Guide for the Research Mathematician
CoE member Andy Magid discussed this recent publication, which he co-wrote with Curtis McKnight (CoE member), Teri J. Murphy, and Michelynn McKnight.

Massachusetts Mathematics Framework
Roger Howe, CoE Chair, invited two mathematicians who had been involved in the recent contentious process of adoption of mathematics education standards in Massachusetts. Maurice Gilmore and Wilfried Schmid discussed the chronology of events that took place.

Other presentations at the meeting:
U.S. Department of Education, Mathematical Sciences Education Board; the AMS-MER Masterís Programs Workshops; a report was submitted from D. Bressoud, AMS representative to the MAA Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics, on the preparation of a new Curriculum Report for release in 2002.

CoE Panel at Joint Mathematics Meetings, New Orleans, January 2001
CoE will host a discussion panel, Saturday, January 13, on the National Research Councilís Mathematics Learning Study and its implications for teacher preparation.

Monica Foulkes
AMS Washington Office