Dr. William E. Kirwan
Chancellor, University System of Maryland

WILL KIRWAN: Dan, thank you very much for that wonderful, wonderful introduction. As Dan mentioned, we've known each other a long, long time. I had the privilege of working, doing research with one of Dan's colleagues, Gwen Shillaber. And I used to come to Indiana University frequently and have a chance to interact with Dan and his colleagues.

I was thrilled to know that Wimberly Royster is in the room, because I really owe my career as a mathematician to Wimberly. I was an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky and had the good fortune to be in his advanced calculus class. Which, when you sort of think back over your career as a student and later faculty member, I have to say was probably the best class I ever took. And it was a credit to Wimberly's extraordinary ability as a teacher to motivate students. And so I feel like it's an honor and a privilege really to be here in the room with Wimberly. He's been such a terrific leader in the issues that we're talking about. And I also see my friend and colleague-- I think Nancy Shapiro is here somewhere in the audience. Yes? And Don Langenberg, who is my predecessor as Chancellor of the University System. So it's great to see these familiar faces.

It is a great pleasure to be here today and to have this opportunity to participate in this MSP network annual conference. I understand this takes place every year, and what a great idea to bring folks together to understand and to learn from one another on these important issues.

I'd like to begin by expressing my great admiration and appreciation to the participants in this conference, those of you in this room. As Arden mentioned, the work you're doing through the Math and Science Partnerships program is so vitally important to the future of our nation. The unfortunate irony is that your endeavors do not always get the attention and career recognition they so richly deserve.

Despite all the depressing reports, newspaper stories and political speeches about America's poor performance in mathematics and science education at all levels of the educational spectrum, as a nation, we still have not developed the sense of urgency and national priority necessary to address what is surely a grave threat to our nation's future wellbeing and economic leadership. The only possible niche left for America in the global economy is as the leader in innovation, science and technology. Unless there is a dramatic and urgent change in our ability to overcome our education deficit in mathematics and science, to produce the numbers of creative and highly skilled graduates we need in these fields, we could well be relegated to a second tier status as a global economic power and face a drop in our standard of living.

This isn't the first time our nation has faced a challenge to its science and technology leadership. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched an earth orbiting satellite called Sputnik. This single act sent a shockwave through our country. I may be one of the few people in this room old enough to remember living through this period. How did our nation respond back then? It was swift and dramatic. A whole new huge federal agency, NASA, was created, and essentially given a blank check to establish the US as the world leader in space studies.

Congress created the National Defense Education Act, aimed at producing thousands of PhDs in science and mathematics to build the research and math and science education capacity for our universities. I was one of the beneficiaries of the NDEA act. There may be others in the room who were as well. And President Kennedy announced the audacious goal of landing a man on the moon within a decade. Obviously these investments and goals were successful and America has been the dominant global force in science and technology from that time until today.

Now we face a challenge no less significant than what we faced five decades ago. But the national response has not been as focused and strong. True, the current crisis was not spawned by a single event. It has been more gradual in its development. But the threat is at least as great. Despite occasional rhetoric at the highest levels of our government and from corporate leaders, there is, as yet, no unified national commitment, no focused systematic agenda to attack this crisis. And time is running out.

Today I'd like to offer a few observations on some of the root causes for our current problems in math and science education, some reasons why I think there is hope that things can change. Some of our experiences in Maryland in grappling with these issues, and a few recommendations that, if implemented, would, I believe, make a difference in our efforts to eradicate our nation's educational deficit.

For context, let me note that, as Dan said, I'm Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, which consists of 11 degree granting institutions, two specialized research institutions, and two regional education centers. We enroll over 125,000 students and have more than 7,600 full time faculty members. So let me begin by what I see as two of the most important root causes for our current distressing situation. I claim no original thinking here, but based on a lot of reading, listening and thinking about what others have said, I've reached these two conclusions.

The first is that the educational enterprise, pre-K through 16, has failed miserably in aligning high school exit requirements with college entrance expectations, especially in math and science. We know how to teach second graders what they need to know in the third grade, tenth graders what they need to know in the 11th grade. Sophomores in college what they need to know for upper division work. But we have failed to teach 12th graders what they need to know for their first year in college. This is obvious because of the extraordinary growth in remedial work offered at our colleges and universities. But this occurs with so-called “high ability” students as well. I see this in a very personal way at the University of Maryland where I have spent more than 40 years as a mathematics faculty member.

As some of you may know, over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic rise in the selectivity of admissions at College Park. The average SAT of entering students is about 1,300, and their average GPA is well above 3.6. Most come with AP credits. Now, you would think that the beginning calculus course today would be much more rigorous than the same course as it was taught 20 years ago. Wrong. My colleagues in the department tell me that if anything, it has been watered down over the past two decades.

How can this be? I do believe that on average, the native intelligence of today's students at College Park is higher than in the past. But they are not learning the things they need to learn in high school to be successful in college level math courses. Now, of course, I'm speaking about averages here. As you would expect, there are many exceptions, students who are ready to go straight into advanced calculus from high school. But way too many struggle with a calculus course that, if anything, is taught to a lower standard then in previous decades. I don't believe Maryland is an exception in this regard. I suspect we are seeing the same phenomenon in universities across the country. We will not address our educational deficit until this problem is fixed.

Higher education must become more of a partner with the K through 12 sector in setting high school exit expectations. I've become convinced that a culprit in this situation is so-called “high stakes testing.” In theory, these tests are intended to raise standards. In practice, I fear they are having the opposite effect. The socio-political reality is the K through 12 test scores must be achieved at a level where most students are successful. The focus has become the test, not what students need to know to be successful at the upper end of the educational spectrum. The result is the gulf between high school exit requirements and college entrance expectations has widened. We will have fixed this problem when the spring finals in high school are, essentially, the first fall exam in college. That kind of alignment must become a focus of the partnership between the K through 12 community and higher education.

A second root cause for our current difficulties in math and science education is society's failure to provide market sensitive salaries for K through 12 teachers in these disciplines. Fortunately, there are talented, dedicated individuals with degrees in math and science who will forgo higher salaries in other sectors to teach in the schools. But there will never be enough of them. It is counter to the economic underpinnings of our nation to expect that we can ever produce the numbers of teachers in these fields we need when there are so many higher paying attractive alternatives. It is difficult to think of any other employment sector where our society refuses to recognize market conditions in setting salaries. Take nursing. We have a huge shortage of nurses in our country. How has the largely not for profit medical enterprise responded? Many nurses are hired after their degrees with six-figure salaries and receive signing bonuses. Do we see that with math and science teachers in our schools?

Fortunately, there are many enlightened school districts across the country that are beginning to experiment with market sensitive salaries in high demand areas like science and math. But until we do this on a large scale, we will continue to struggle with producing the volume of highly qualified math and science teachers our nation needs.

From what I've said so far, you might have the impression that I'm pessimistic about our ability to reverse our current situation in math and science education. That's not true. In fact, I see several rays of real hope. Let me describe some of them.

First of all, there is the support the NSF is providing to address our science and math education challenges through programs like the Mathematics and Science Partnership program. You are here for this conference, and your colleagues across the country who could not be, are making a real difference. I know from the results of the MSP projects in Maryland. As I understand it, the MSP program involves some 150 colleges and universities, 1,100 faculty, 700 school districts, and 135,000 K through 12 teachers. This is of a size to make a real difference. Moreover, the focus of this conference is, to some extent, on how we can scale up the good lessons we have learned and models we have developed through MSP projects. From my perspective, this focus on scaling up is very important. We have thousands of points of light out there, isolated projects, where, with very substantial investments of funds, good results have been achieved. That's fine. But what our nation needs are strategies that can be implemented on a large scale within existing budgets. That's some of what I hope will come out of this conference.

Secondly, I do think the attention given by Tom Friedman and other authors and the publicity coming out of the National Academies Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report are having an impact. Finally we're beginning to see the elements of a more focused national agenda and sense of urgency, something I mentioned that has been missing today. The aspect of the Gathering Storm Report that I find so encouraging is the priorities in the report given the composition of the Blue Ribbon Panel that developed it. Appointed by the National Academies at the request of Congress to make recommendation on America's competitiveness, the panel included Academy members and Nobel prize winners. With that composition, one might have expected the first recommendation in the report to be about building our research infrastructure, or increasing the federal support for basic research. But these recommendations made the final-- both of these recommendations made the final cut, but they came after the call for vastly more K through 12 math and science teachers. Ten thousand a year for each of the next ten years. I also point out that the report's second goal is to strengthen the skills of the nation's 250,000 current mathematics and science teachers. Think about that. More and better teachers were at the very top of the recommendations. Before more federal spending for research, before tax incentives for innovation, before tax credits for R&D, before anything else. Clearly, in the eyes of this high level group, we can secure our nation's economic competitiveness, only by generating a perpetual stream of STEM educators. Fortunately, this report seems to be having an impact on our leadership in Washington, and hopefully its recommendations will be reflected in future NSF and other federal agency budgets.

The third positive development is the National Governor's Association's intense focus on post-secondary education readiness, and, in particular, the production of STEM teachers. I witnessed the impact of the NGA's education agenda on Maryland's new governor, Martin O'Malley. He went to his first NGA meeting this past summer and returned charged up, eager to reform the state's pre-K through 16 council. By Executive order, he changed the council in which he had no formal role previously to a pre-K through 20 council reflecting graduate education, that he personally will chair. This will enable us to address issues like high school college alignment and STEM teacher production in a policy context where change really can occur. Incidentally, when I presented our budget priorities to him recently, he funded an initiative to increase STEM teacher production within the University System of Maryland. Based on what I've heard from presidents and chancellors across the country, similar kinds of activities are occurring in some other states as well.

A fourth ray of hope is the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges-- NASULGC, as we refer to them. This initiative they recently launched called the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative. This is intended as a long term effort to address the shortage of well qualified science and mathematics teachers, as highlighted in the Rising Above the Gathering Storm Report. NASULGC's 216 members enroll more than 3.8 million students, award approximately a half a billion degrees annually, and have an estimate 20 million alumni. The association's memberships include public research universities, land grant institutions, and state university systems. NASULGC's Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative uses a three-pronged approach.

First is the development of a framework for the collection, analysis, synthesis, and dissemination of data that accurately reflect the true nature of the STEM teacher shortage across the country. Developing consistent accessible data is absolutely critical. Second, NASULGC is taking a broad look across the many different STEM initiatives underway from UTeach, to Teachers of a New Era, from the STEM efforts funded by the Exxon Mobile Foundation, to the promising practices coming from your wok on the MSPs. There is a wide variety of different STEM efforts underway. NASULGC seeks to develop an analytical framework of what is most promising, in terms of recruitment, mentoring, partnership, and curriculum development. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But that doesn't mean everyone has to go it alone. A matrix of MSP efforts and a sharing of information would benefit everyone. Finally, NASULGC is striving to unite higher education leadership, both at the institutional level and the system level to make STEM education a mutual priority among peers. A shared commitment to elevate STEM can have a significant impact. Imagine if just half the 216 members made a pledge to take concrete actions on STEM, like the University of Maryland's commitment to triple our production of STEM teachers.

Think of the influence that would have on other national groups like the NGA to make STEM a priority, or the effect it might have on the federal government to advance STEM partnership efforts. I'm sure such a focus would be valuable to the MSPs. Obviously, there are other things I could cite that offer reasons for hope. But just as obviously, we certainly can't let our guard down. We have a long way to go before we can claim there is a real national agenda to address our math and science education needs.

Let me now describe some of the things we are doing in Maryland on STEM education issues. I believe Maryland's landscape is typical. Like every other state, we have an ongoing shortage of K through 12 educators in the STEM areas. According to the most recent Maryland State Department of Education Teacher Shortage Report, staffing productions in STEM disciplines far exceed the supply of teacher candidates. In math, biology, chemistry, physics, et cetera, Maryland's new teacher candidate supply stands at about 250. That's what we're producing in all of higher education across the state. Whereas projected new hires demand is estimated to be 1,200. One example illustrates our challenge. Last year, Maryland colleges and universities in total produced one-- that's right-- one secondary physics teacher. Someone asked me where she taught. I said, "Anywhere she wants to!" So, here are some things we're doing in Maryland on STEM education.

First, I'm proud to say that USM has a five year 7.5 million NSF Math and Science Partnership grant. Under the leadership of Nancy Shapiro from the University System Office, this funding enables a partnership among the System faculty, Montgomery College, a community college, and Montgomery County public schools. Faculty from five of our institutions work closely with high school science teachers in professional learning communities, elevating understanding, improving teaching, and facilitating learning. We're very pleased with the results of this grant and are looking to implement some of the lessons learned in other Maryland jurisdictions.

The NSF is also active in our efforts to reform undergraduate education through the change and sustainability in higher education or CASHE Project, which is also ably led by Nancy Shapiro. The CASHE Project is intended to document and bring about institutional change in our institutions by strengthening the pedagogy practices of our STEM faculty on our campuses, expanding their work in mathematics and science education, and improving our teacher preparation and professional development programs. The CASHE Project focuses, in part, on implementing best practice changes that had been developed by NSF/MSP projects across the country.

Thirdly, Maryland was the first state in the nation to develop a single set of standards for an Associate Arts of Teaching track that allows future educators to move from a two-year to a four-year teacher ed program seamlessly. They enter as juniors. The foundation of this innovative approach, which has since become a national model, is the element of partnership that drove it. K through 12 educators, community college faculty and four-year faculty developed the curriculum jointly, essentially guaranteeing its successful implementation.

Fourth, our institutions are taking individual initiative to increase their capabilities to respond to the STEM teacher crisis. For example, the Willard Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science at Towson University, which was established in 2006 through a gift from Willard Hackerman, President and CEO of Whiting-Turner Construction Company. Former NASA astronaut Don Thomas is a director of the academy. And incidentally, Dan, I would recommend him as a speaker at a future conference. He is a very dynamic and exciting speaker. The Hackerman Academy's mission is threefold: to excite young Maryland students about the wonders of science and mathematics; to encourage them to pursue careers in the STEM areas; and to energize and prepare teachers in these disciplines while also providing advanced training in math and science to existing teachers in the state. The academy has programs on campus and off campus. And they reach out to the entire K through 12 community in Maryland. They are working actively with both students, faculty, and teachers. The Hackerman Academy is a great example of how STEM issues have evolved.

Thanks to the efforts of people like you, we are seeing a movement across the country to elevate STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to bring STEM education to more students, and to engage the private sector in supporting our efforts. I mentioned earlier the USM's goal of tripling our production of STEM teachers by 2012. Let me say a word about our strategy.

We are giving each of our campuses with teacher preparation programs a target that collectively would achieve the tripling goal. Campuses are expected to employ proven strategies such as UTeach, and others developed through the NSF/MSP programs to achieve their individual goals. As I noted earlier, I have discussed this initiative and goal with our governor, who has provided seed funding to jump start it. Our Board of Regents has also embraced this initiative and goal. At my request, the board will be holding me and the presidents accountable for its achievement.

Finally, let me mention an initiative within the University System of Maryland, that at first wash may not seem to be directly related to the STEM challenges that I've been discussing. But it is. This is our ambitious closing the achievement gap agenda. As I'm sure you know, there is an alarming disparity in participation and success rates of students in higher education based on race and income. For example, a high ability, low income student-- high ability, low income-- is no more likely to graduate from college today than a low ability, high income student. This is a tragic loss of talent in our nation that must be addressed. The USM has set a goal of cutting the success rate gaps at our institutions in half by 2015. We measure these by graduation rates. We measure graduation rates in six years, and so that's how you get to 2015. This will require a significant upgrade in the quality of instruction at schools serving low income and minority students. It will also require stronger academic support and financial aide programs on our campuses.

Let me conclude my remarks today with my thoughts on the most important things for us to do as a nation if we are to overcome our educational deficit, including most especially in the state of Maryland. First, as I noted earlier, we must address the gap between high school exit requirements and college entrance expectations. Here, I think it is imperative for higher education to take a much stronger stance in discussion with the K through 12 sector on this topic. Essentially, we have stayed on the sidelines in the K through 12 testing development. We can no longer afford to play a passive role in this area. Pre-K through 16 councils, or pre-K through 20 councils as we now have in Maryland--are an ideal venue to address this topic.

Secondly, we need rigorously developed targets state by state for the production of STEM teachers. And we then needs states to develop an accountability mechanism for meeting their individual goals. The Gathering Storm Report is a good start. But without state by state targets, we will not be able to set meaningful goals for our universities. I am hopefully that the NASULGC project will produce this kind of analysis.

Third, we need to work within our states and communities to ensure that successful math and science teachers have the compensation and working environment that will motivate more math and science majors to pursue K through 12 teaching as a rewarding career path.

Fourth, we need to place greater emphasis on enrichment programs for existing teachers. I recall participating in an NSF program in the summer of 1965 for established mathematics teachers. I was a newly admitted PhD in mathematics, and I was teaching a group of mathematics teachers from around the country. And believe it or not, I was the youngest person in the room. But I have to say, it was a marvelous program. I stayed in contact with these teachers for years and was impressed by the difference they said it made in their ability to teach high school mathematics. The preparation of new, highly qualified teachers is very important. But for at least the coming decade, the vast majority of our K through 12 students will be taught by teachers currently in the classroom.

Fifth, we must ensure that all of our K through 12 students have an opportunity to succeed in college. Obviously this is a long term issue that will require strong partnerships between higher ed and the K through 12 sector. But we need to better support low income and underrepresented minority students that we admit to our campuses. At present, too many of them drop out because of inadequate preparation and too little financial aide.

And finally, we must collectively bring all the pressure we can bear to ensure that the President and Congress provide adequate funding to grow programs like the NSF Math and Science Partnership Program.

So that's my agenda. I want to thank all of you for allowing me to spend this time with you this morning. As I said earlier, I have great, great admiration for the vitally important work you are doing for our nation. Thank you very much.