NORTH BETHESDA – Scott Parsons, 11, carefully navigated the halls of Parkland Magnet Middle School for Aerospace Technology, as he juggled two overstuffed binders and a homemade model rocket.
Although he has a heavy math and science workload, Parsons said it does not bother him.
“It’s fun to work with your friends on math problems and it helps you in your future,” he explained.
To encourage more students to think math is “cool” and instrumental to job success, President Bush came to Parson’s school Tuesday to announce his creation of a National Mathematics Advisory Panel.
The panel is just one component of his plan to make America more competitive in the future workforce by beefing up research and science and math education.
As many fields are becoming more dependent on workers with strong technical backgrounds, Bush said, education priorities must reflect those needs.
“In a global world, if our children do not have the skill set of the 21st century, then the jobs are going to go somewhere else,” Bush said. “It is a fact of life. It’s a part of the real world and we have to deal with it.”
The panel will survey the best ways to get students of all learning abilities interested in math education. It will make its suggestions available by Jan. 1 to any interested school districts. Financial incentives, which were not specified, will be offered for districts that adopt the recommendations.
There is $10 million in the president’s 2007 fiscal budget to carry out the panel’s recommendations, according to Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the Department of Education.
There is also $250 million, he said, for Math Now programs, a counterpart to the Reading First initiative already in place. The president’s budget still has to be approved by Congress.
Nancy Grasmick, the Maryland state superintendent of schools, said she was thrilled that a Maryland school was chosen as an example of having a good technical curriculum and that she supports the president’s plans.
“We are dedicated to this agenda in Maryland,” she said.
For example, Parkland school brings in NASA scientists to teach in a program similar to one mentioned by Bush that would bring more professionals into classrooms nationally.
While Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, also backed the president’s plans, he said Bush has not made education enough of a priority in his budget.
“There is broad support for competitiveness in general,” Van Hollen “The issue isn’t whether this is a bad idea or a good idea: It’s a good idea. The question is: Is he willing to put the resources behind it to make it meaningful?”
Although the president has put more money towards math and science education, the budget also cuts money from other educational programs, Van Hollen said.
“You shouldn’t be robbing one part of the education budget simply to fund another part. We need to, at the very least, be expanding our investment in education, if it is, as the president said, so important to our economic future.”