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Taking Your Questions on “Educate to Innovate”

Welcome,everyone. We’re here with Secretary Duncan
and Dr. Holdren just after the President’s announcement
about science, technology, engineering and
mathematics education. The President just announced a
tremendous partnership between private industry and the
government to really excite and motivate students all around the
country to get involved in math and science careers. We’re going to have a brief
online discussion and respond to your questions that you are
posting on the website. Secretary Duncan, why don’t you
begin and introduce yourself to the community here, and tell
us a little bit about why the announcement
excited you so much. Secretary Arnie Duncan:
Hi,I’m Arnie Duncan. This is a pretty extraordinary
day for the stem fields in our country. You have leadership
from the top. You have a President that is
passsionately committed to this. He said repeatedly
that we can’t be, the next generation just
can’t be the consumers. We have to be the producers. We have to help those students
become the makers and the inventors of the new economy. And if we can do that well
America is going to continue to be very, very strong. So this is an extraordinarily
exciting time. We want to make science, math,
technology and engineering fun. We want to make it exciting. We want to make it engaging. We want start at the
youngest of ages. Today the President announced
over $260 million in donations and in-kind contributions coming
in from the corporate and philanthropic community. A chance to have a very,
very significant impact. And we want to do everything we
can to work out of school as well as in school to
dramatically improve the quality of math and science, engineering
and technology education in our schools. This is not just a Department
of Education initiative. This is a leadership that is
coming straight from the
White House. And with us is Dr. Holdren who
is the President’s Advisor on Science Education. He has done a phenomenal
job in working with us, working with NASA,
working with NSF. I would like to turn it over to
Dr. Holdren to talk about what we’re doing not as a Department
of Education but as an administration. Dr. John Holdren:
Well, thank you,
Secretary Duncan. It is a great privilege for me
to be the Science and Technology Advisor to a President of
the United States who really understands the importance of
science, technology, innovation, and above all,
science, technology, engineering and math education
for the future of our country. The reason the President has
launched this set of initiatives from the White House in
cooperation with the Department of Education, the
Department of Energy, NASF, the National Alliance
of Science Foundation, is that he understands that the
importance of doing a better job of educating our kids
in science, technology, engineering and math is really
three-fold: We need to generate a new cohort of scientists and
technologists who are going to make the breakthroughs to help
us address the great challenges we face in the economy,
in the environment, in national security. We also want to develop
the tech-savvy work force. We’re going to need to be
competitive in the 21st century. And we want to develop the
science-savvy citizenry who can participate effectively in a
democracy where more and more of the decisions that have to get
made in that democracy involve science and technology. So it really is a multifaceted
set of reasons for getting this right. And we’re determined
to get it right. This is a high priority
for the President. It’s a high priority for me. It’s a high priority
for Secretary Duncan. And as today’s initiatives
indicate we have a tremendous opportunity for partnership
with the private sector, the philanthropic sector, the
foundations and the government at the federal level, at the
state level, at the local level. And I think together we’re
going to get it done. Moderator:
That’s wonderful. So the President ended his
remarks really with a call to parents. I am going to pull a question
from Mervin Thompson from Louisville, Kentucky,
who echoed that. Secretary Duncan, what’s the
role of parents within a child’s education? Dr. Holdren, how do we engage
parents and the general public more in the practice of science? Secretary Arnie Duncan:
I’ll start and turn it over to you. It is so critically important
that parents be actively engaged and as much as we want to
dramatically improve the quality of what is going on within
schools parents are always going to be our students first
teachers and they are always going to be our most
important teachers. In the way we see students
education taking off is a partnership between teachers
and parents working together. When parents aren’t engaged,
when they’re not active, when they are not responsible
for their own children’s education it is very, very tough
on those teachers to get the job done just by themselves. So where you have real
partnerships we have all the adults in the child’s life
working together great things are going to happen
for that child. Dr. John Holdren:
Another respect in which parents are extremely important are demanding excellence in the teaching that their kids are receiving. The President talked today about
his recent trip to Asia where he talked to leaders in South
Korea, Japan and China, among other things,
about education. And one of the things those
leaders told the President as he related today is that the
greatest demand for high quality in their education
comes from the parents. The parents in Korea,
the parents in China, the parents in Japan demanding
excellence in the education their kids get including
particularly science, technology, engineering
and math education. It would be great if that
happened here as well. Moderator:
Absolutely. So speaking of teachers, Carl
Clapper from central New Jersey has the comment that says we
need to separate certification from education. Secretary Duncan, I know this is
something you have put a lot of work on. How do we recruit and prepare
even better teachers for our kids today? Secretary Arnie Duncan:
There’s a lot in that question and we could take a lot of time. But let me say a
couple of things. I would love to find much more
creative ways to get folks who know math, who know
science, who know physics, who know engineering
into our classrooms. We don’t have enough teachers
who really know the content extraordinarily well,
particularly in poor and disadvantaged communities. And where we can better partner
with people coming out of industry or people with that
deep content knowledge, I think they would be of
tremendous use and benefit for our students. So we want to be much more
creative as we go forward. Secondly we have had a shortage
of math and science teachers for, I think, three decades. I don’t want to talk about it
for another three decades. I want to fix it. And we have been blessed to
have unprecedented resources. And I think particularly in
underserved communities I think we should pay math and
science teachers more money. And we’re going to put literally
billions of dollars on the table to reward excellence, to get
folks to teach in hard-to-staff communities and to get them to
work in hard-to-staff subject areas with a particular
focus on math and science. And in the long-term we want to
think much more about not just certifications on the piece
of paper but on teacher effectiveness. You can have all the fancy
degrees in the word but if students aren’t learning are
you really making a difference. So we want to move over time
from sort of paper credentials to really looking at are our
students really learning. And those are the teachers where
they would make a tremendous difference in students’ lives. Those are the teachers we want
to better reward and highlight and learn from and if we can
do that well I think we can transform the quality of
education in our country. Moderator:
I will go to a question from Ross Perrent in Denver, Colorado, who comments
about first robotics. You saw in the President’s
announcement a wonderful robot and some really charming kids,
very proud of their invention. Secretary Duncan, you had a
career as a professional athlete before you came an educator. What is the role in competitions
like first in exciting and motivating kids? And Dr. Holdren, how do we get
the scientific community to help kids build those robots and
create those kind of catalyzing after-school programs? Dr. John Holdren:
Well, first of all, I would say that the whole
robotics effort is an example of the fact that kids
learn best by doing. They learn by making
things, by doing things. Much more effectively than just
by being lectured at about things. And I think this robotics
competition in which we saw a demonstration of one of the
winners earlier today is a great example of that. What we have happening in some
of these initiatives that are being rolled out today, that
were being rolled out today by the President, is we
have of private sector, the philanthropic sector and the
government working together to create some new activities and
approaches in which we’ll have more competitions. The winners of those
competitions will be brought to the White House. The President was very
clear saying, you know, we bring the NCAA champions
to the White House, we should also bring the
champion students in science and engineering competitions
to the White House. In fact, we have done
some of that already. I have had several groups of
science and math winners in the oval office with the President. And we’re going to
do more of that. But were going to
use prizes, I think, in a much more wide-ranging way
to energize kids to get engaged in this competitions
and to do well. Secretary Arnie Duncan:
John said it perfectly. If we really want
students to be engaged, we have to teach them
in an engaging way. And this simply memorizing facts
and memorizing the periodic table we’re not going to get
the kind of innovation we want. But if students are engaged
in real competition, if they are working together,
basically every high school in this country has
a football team. Why doesn’t every high school
in this country have a robotics team. I think that is the kind
of opportunity we want. And we have to have a particular
focus on women and on minorities. We have to get more people
engaged in math and science education and things like the
robotics competitions are just a heck of a lot of fun. The winners, they
could have 70,000 people in the Georgia
dome for the championship. This is a huge, huge deal. And we need to make sure more
students have those kinds of opportunities. Moderator:
We have had a couple of questions come in. One from Indiana, one from
San Diego about the nonprofit sector. Gentlemen, could you each talk
about what’s the role of the nonprofit sector in really
improving stem education. Dr. John Holdren:
Well, first of all, a number of the major
foundations the Mc Arthur Foundation, the
Carnegie Foundation, are involved in funding the
initiatives that we launch today. The philanthropic sector
is committed, I think, as the private sector and
the government sector is, to lifting the level of science,
technology, engineering, math education in this country. And what the philanthropic
sector does when it is committed to something is it comes
up with some of the money. And they are doing that here. The total value of the
initiative launch today was as the Secretary has
already mentioned, $260 million and rising. We expect that number to go up
as more partners stand up and start to participate. Secretary Arnie Duncan:
This is the kind of thing that is so important for our country that we all have to be working together. This has to be all hands on deck
so we’re going to try to step up our game. Again, you have a President who
is passionately committed to this, has put together a
leadership team to work hard. But the government can’t
begin to do this alone. You have to have the
nonprofit sector. You have to have the schools,
you have to have the corporations, you have to
have the foundations working together. And those kinds of partnerships,
those public/private partnerships are what is going
to lead the country where we need to go and to provide all
students with opportunities they need, particularly from an
early age to be engaged, to be learning and to really
start to build their passion for math and science and technology. Dr. John Holdren:
I should have mentioned, by the way, the Gates foundation, the Bill
and Linda Gates Foundation who along with Mc Arthur and the
Carnegie Corporation of New York are major funders of the
initiative we rolled out today. Moderator:
Great. Here’s a question from
Collette Casalini. It’s actually a statement, but I
thought both of you might want to respond to it. She says support the teachers
with professional development and opportunities to bring these
types of programs into the school, otherwise
it won’t happen. What do you think of that? Secretary Arnie Duncan:
She hit the nail on the head. And we want to do really
innovative things in the summers and after school, and with TV
programming that is much more focused on math and
science education. But if we don’t impact what’s
going on in the classroom we’re never going to get
where we need to go. The more we provide high quality
professional development so that teachers have a deep content
knowledge that there is huge benefits. It is simply the only way
we’re going to get there. And so where there is
partnerships with universities and other higher institutions
to create those meaningful professional government
opportunities and really create those content-rich environments
that students desperately need it is absolutely
critically important. And so that has got be at the
heart of our collective efforts is improving the quality of
instruction in classrooms. Moderator:
We have a few questions here about measures of success in testing so I thought maybe you could respond to some of these. The question: How do you change measures of success to reflect a change and this new way of
learning about inquiry, about engagement,
about solving problems? Secretary Arnie Duncan:
I’ll say that the end goal, how you measure successful,
ultimately the President has drawn a line in the sand, he has
said by 2020 we want to again have the highest percent of
college graduates in the world. And America used to lead the
world two and a half decades ago in the number of
college graduates. We have flatlined. Other countries
have passed us by. And I think we are paying a
price for that as a country. We have to educate our
way to a better economy. So at the end of the day
everything we do has to be towards that ultimate goal
of getting many more of our students graduating
from high school, dramatically increasing
graduation rates, dramatically reducing
dropout rates, and then ultimately having
many more of our high school graduates be prepared to compete
successfully and graduate from college. We are putting through the
Race of Top Initiative, $4 billion out to states to work
together to raise the bar to come up with the
common standards. As part of that we have $350
million to come up with the next generation of assessments. So you have to go way beyond the
sort of fill-out-the-bubble test and really think about how you
are helping students learn throughout their
education trajectory. We have 48 states, 48 governors,
48 state school chiefs working together and over the next
couple of years I think we can really break through on a
critically important issue, raise the bar for everyone. Higher standards. Then have much better
systems behind those. Moderator:
So we have had a couple of people on the blog roll here ask about dollars. Secretary, you mentioned
a few pieces there. Maybe you can provide a summary
of what the Department of Education and the other federal
agencies are doing around spending in this arena. Secretary Arnie Duncan:
Well, I’ll start in just our department and turn it over to
Dr. Holdren to talk about what the entire
administration is doing. With the President’s leadership
and bipartisan support of Congress we have had an
unprecedented investment in education, over a hundred
billion dollars in new money. It’s just never happened before. At every level, early
childhood, K to 12, excuse me, and higher ed, so it is just
a remarkable opportunity. What we also have is not
just unprecedented dollars, but unprecedented discretionary
dollars to really invest in those states, those
districts, those nonprofits, those universities that are
willing to do two things: Raise the bar for all students. And dramatically close
the achievement gap. And so whether it is the
Race To The Top Fund, which is $4 billion. Whether it’s the Invest
In Innovation Fund, the I3 fund which
is $650 million, coming right behind that would
be school improvement grants of $3.5 billion, we have never had
a better opportunity to invest in what’s working. And what I have said repeatedly
is that the good ideas are never going to come from Washington. The best ideas in education are
always going to come at the local level. Great teachers,
great principals, making a difference
in students lives. What we want to do is invest
unprecedented resources behind those best practices. Learn from them. Replicate them. Take it to scale. And move these
pockets of excellence, these islands of excellence and
make them systems of excellence. We have a chance finally
to be able to do that. Dr. John Holdren:
Certainly by far the largest part of the new government money for
education is the money that Secretary Duncan has described
as going through the Department of Education, but there
are other efforts. Secretary Chu in the
Department of Energy, the NSF director Arden Bement
have announced a program called Reenergize at a level of some
tens of millions of dollars which was intended to use the
Clean Energy Challenge as a way to inspire and energize a new
generation of kids who would work on science and engineering
and mathematics related to that particular challenge. There are a variety of other
efforts spread through the cabinet departments
in the White House, in the White House offices. But I would say the most
important thing that is new about today’s announcement
is the remarkable set of partnerships that bring in the
philanthropic sector or the private sector with both
contributions of money and in-kind contributions, pledging
resources in terms of the time and effort of the employees
of these companies. We have Time Warner Cable
launching a campaign to connect over a million students to
engage in after school science, technology, engineering
and math activities. You have got the Discovery
Channel that’s going to be producing $150 million worth of
effort to deliver to kids in the after-school hours, 3
to 5 in the afternoon, interactive science and
technology content on their cable televisions. We have got a program that is
aimed at developing science labs for every middle school and
every high school so that kids can learn more science and
engineering in hands-on ways. And again that is being very
heavily funded with in-kind contributions from business. So it’s not just government
money that’s going to get this done. It’s private sector money,
it’s philanthropic money, and it’s these partnerships, of
folks working together. Moderator:
Dr. Holdren, you’re an esteemed scientist. One of the — actually a couple
of questions here seem to speak about a concern that science is
just going to be limited to a list of facts. Maybe you could talk a little
bit about how facts play a role in the practice of science. And then Secretary Duncan what
are the implications for that around Race To The Top and the
new assessments that are coming? Dr. John Holdren:
Well, first, I would say that science has
never just been about facts and science teaching should never
be about memorizing facts. It should be about
understanding concepts, figuring out how to think both
critically and creatively about problems. And in fact one of the reasons
that science education is a particularly valuable thing,
well beyond the potential breakthroughs that can be made
relating to health and the economy and the
environment and so on, is this skill of thinking
systematically and critically about new problems. It’s always more important to be
able to think creatively about new problems than it is to
memorize the facts about the old ones although we also believe
that facts are important in decision making. When we think about the
decisions the government faces where science and technology are
involved we want those decisions to be made in light of the best
knowledge that we can bring to bear, the most relevant
facts we can bring to bear, but when you are thinking about
training the next generation, you much more want to think
about understanding how science works, understanding how
to think creatively and systematically. Moderator:
So one last question for you both. It sort of touches on something
a little bit earlier. It’s from New York. It asks: What policy initiatives
are planned to make teaching as the first choice for a new grad
instead of choosing to head to Wall Street or to industry? Secretary Arnie Duncan:
I’ll start. And I think that’s one of the
most important things we can do over the next four to six years
we have as many as a million teachers who are going to retire
so baby boomer generation that is going out. And our ability to attract and
more importantly retain great talent over the next four to six
years is going to shape public education of our country
for the next 30 years. It’s an absolute generational
shift and so we’re spending a tremendous amount of time
thinking about how we make teaching the revered profession
that it needs to be and should be. How do we get the
hardest working, most committed to
come into education. We have lots of ideas
about recruitment. Let me say one thing very
specifically that we’re not fighting for and not
working on is done. As of July 1st, Congress passed
what’s called income-based repayment, IBR. And folks who graduate either
from college or from school of education or a doctor or a
lawyer or someone finishing their Ph.D. in science, their loan repayments will now be indexed to their income. And after ten years of public
service of teaching any loans they still have outstanding will
be eliminated, will be erased. And so there are many folks who
historically wanted to go into education but simply couldn’t do
it because they had loans of 60, 80, $100,000, so rather than
following their heart and following their passion
they had to do other things. With income-based repayment now
dramatic reductions in loan repayments and ultimately after
ten years of service those loans are going away. So this is a start of a very
serious effort to remove the financial impediments to
teaching but then put in place a series of incentives to
get the hearts working, the most committed, the most
talented to come into education and serve our children. This is a national
call of service. Dr. John Holdren:
As the Secretary says, we need to pay our
teachers better. Certainly we need to
respect them more. Another thing the President
pointed out from his trip around Asia in his conversations about
education in those countries is the degree to which science and
engineering and math teachers get a degree of respect in the
society that’s equivalent to the respect accorded other
highly-trained professionals, physicians, lawyers, and so on. Another thing we can do is make
it easier at the stage when these folks are doing
their college education. We can provide financial aid
that is tied to the willingness to take science and math and
education courses together and become prepared to be an
effective teacher in these
domains. Moderator:
So thank you both for participating here. Thank you for many of the
questions that came through. I’m sorry we don’t have the time
to get through every single one of them. Do you have any closing
comments, gentlemen? Secretary Arnie Duncan:
This is an exciting time. This is great for children. This is great for the country. And we have to work together
to make this happen. Dr. John Holdren:
The President called for all hands on deck in this effort as the Secretary already mentioned and I think one of the reflections of all hands on deck is the sort of interest in the public that’s reflected in this kind of webcast interaction. And I would say to all of those
who are watching keep up your interest in this, keep engaging
in every way you can because we need the support of the whole
public if we’re going to make this work. Moderator:
Thank you very much.

Reynold King

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