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Introduction of the Congressional Science Competition Resolution

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, today, along with 35 of my House colleagues, I introduce bipartisan legislation to authorize the Congressional Science Competition. This legislation will allow Members the opportunity to conduct academic competitions in the sciences among high school students in their Congressional Districts.

Pre-college science and mathematics education is one of the most important factors affecting the nation's scientific literacy and awareness, as well as the future supply of America's scientific and technological personnel. Unfortunately, indicators of the performance of United States students in pre-college science and math education indicate a need for improvement, including the need to increase student interest in science.

In 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics, NCES, released its most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP, on the Sciences. As a division of the United States Department of Education, the NCES has, since 1969, issued National Assessments on subjects such as reading, mathematics, history and civics.

Unfortunately, the 2000 Science Assessment found that from 1996, the first year a Science Assessment was completed, to 2000, proficiency in the sciences by America's 12th graders declined. Using a scale of 0-300, America's 12th graders scored 147, with 47 percent of students testing below a basic knowledge in the sciences. Only 34 percent of students showed a basic knowledge and even more discouraging, only 16 percent of students tested at or above a proficient knowledge in the sciences.

Coupled with these declining scores and declining interest in the sciences from pre-college students, enrollment in graduate science and engineering programs over the last decade has not kept pace with foreign student enrollment in these same programs. According to a report released by the National Science Foundation, enrollment in graduate science and engineering programs by United States citizens and permanent residents from 1993 to 2001 declined by over 10 percent from just over 330,000 students to 296,000 students. However, at the same time, enrollment in these same programs by foreign students living in the United States with temporary visas rose by over 26 percent from just over 105,000 in 1993 to approximately 133,000 in 2001.

Global competition and rapid advances in science and technology increasingly require a national workforce that is more scientifically and technically proficient and Congress must take action to support the need to develop national expertise in the areas of science and engineering.

Americans have been responsible for some of the most fantastic scientific discoveries. From Thomas Edison's work with electricity, Dr. Jonas Salk's discovery of the Polio vaccine, to the development of the personal computer and the Internet, Americans and their discoveries have changed the world in remarkable and unmistakable ways. Even today, America's space program is coordinating our most sophisticated space exploration effort ever. The Mars Rover program is a tremendous scientific success developed by NASA's best and brightest scientists.

Yet if academic indicators are correct, America will face a vast drain of scientific knowledge and ambition in the near future and we must begin to ask ourselves where we will find America's next Dr. Salk or the talent to develop America's future missions in space.

Congress has a clear interest in ensuring that America's great scientific past and present continues into the future. The Congressional Science Competition is an effective way for Congress to demonstrate leadership in promoting scientific education as a national priority, to show support for the process of scientific inquiry, and to foster enthusiasm for science. I urge all of my Colleagues to join me in cosponsoring this legislation and in doing so, indicate their support for making science education and interest a national priority.


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