Improving Mathematics Education
Two among many hearings that we held in Congress this week concerned mathematics education and the National Mall.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and Labor, of which I am a member, discussed a report from the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, a group created in 2006 to determine best practices for improving mathematics education in the United States. Mathematics education is "broken and must be fixed" if the U.S. wants to maintain its competitive edge in the world, according to the Panel.
Improving our national competence in mathematics and science is important for many reasons, including those of economics, national security, and democracy, as well as for personal well being. The report of the Panel lists recommendations that appear to be good. Several important parts form the hearing I would like to mention: there is no "math gene." We must stop thinking that some people will be good in math and some can be relegated to lifelong ignorance of math. We all can and must learn math. Second, there is no "teaching gene," either. Good teachers aren't born; they are developed, and schools need better teacher development programs - every year, every week, every day. And third, although the recommendations appear to be good, there is very little additional data and research to support them. In every area of schooling, we need better research on what works. It's not good enough to base teaching on each person's hunch about how students learn best.
Two Central New Jersey teachers -- Margaret Dever, a mathematics teacher at Marlboro High School, and Karen Galley, a chemistry teacher at West Windsor-Plainsboro South High School - recently won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, the highest award a K-12 mathematics or science teacher may receive for outstanding teaching in the United States. I recently visited Mrs. Dever's classroom and will soon visit Mrs. Galley to congratulate her on this honor.
We need to ensure that teachers like Mrs. Dever, Mrs. Galley, and other exceptional teachers across New Jersey have the resources to inspire future generations of students about math.
The National Mall
The National Mall belongs to all Americans. Running from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, this public land lined with museums and monuments is the country's front yard. It is where people exercise their first amendment right to petition their government, celebrate our national heritage through festivals like the folk life festival, and comtemplate. We should all care about the future of the National Mall.
This week, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on the Mall's future, with testimony of officials of the National Park Service (NPS) that manages the Mall, the National Capital Planning Commission, and concerned private groups testifying. The official from NPS said it is preparing a 50-year restoration plan. NPS continues to solicit comments on ways to improve the Mall.
We should be innovative and thoughtful as we work to restore the Mall. Many areas on the Mall have deteriorated, including Constitution Gardens, an area adjacent to the Reflecting Pool. Trees that the NPS planted 30 years ago are stunted and the ground comparted. Better maintenance of trees at Constitution Gardens and along the Mall could provide essential covering.
A 21st Century GI Bill
Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to their nation. It is also a time to renew our commitment to the nation's veterans, including those who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Six decades ago the GI Bill provided college tuition for veterans coming home, and it was one of the most beneficial programs of government. One way to fulfill the pledge to veterans - of today and tomorrow - is to pass a new GI Bill for a full, four-year education. Current benefits only pay about 70 percent of a public college education. Our troops, many of whom have served two, three or more tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, deserve an improved GI Bill. Every dollar spent on the original GI Bill created a seven-fold return for the economy, according to a 1988 Congressional study. Passage of this legislation would be good for our veterans and be good for our economy.
The GI Bill for the 21st Century, of which I am a cosponsor, has passed the House of Representatives and a nearly identical version passed the Senate. These versions must now be reconciled in a House-Senate Conference Committee.
Member of Congress