NSF Conference Boosts Diversity: Action Plan Drafted to Reshape Science, Math Education

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NSF Conference Boosts Diversity: Action Plan Drafted to Reshape. Science, Math Education

by Garland L. Thompson

WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Science Foundation held its third annual conference for science educators, "Diversity in the Scientific and Technological Workforce," at the Omni Shoreham Hotel here Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

The conference, hosted by Luther Williams, foundation assistant director for education and human resources, brought together more than 1,600 educators, scientists, college and high school students. Focusing national attention on the "underrepresentation of minorities in the science, mathematics and engineering enterprise," the conference is one of the directorate's major activities.

Conferees received a draft "Action Plan" to expand minority participation. A background explanation included with the plan noted five driving factors:

The development of National Education Goals by President George Bush in his meeting with the nation's governors in 1990 and the U.S. Congress' response in its "Goals 2000" education act, which represent the first-ever national consensus on the expected achievements of the K-12 education system;

The Clinton administration's policy statement on "Technology for America's Economic Growth, A New Direction to Build Economic Strength," which declared that basic science, mathematics and engineering research and education have critical roles in promoting economic growth;

Congress' direction that the National Science Foundation sharpen its focus, redirecting its activities to more effectively address national needs;

Recent establishment of a Cabinet-level, National Science and Technology Council and its Committee on Education and Training as the unitary federal mechanism to coordinate initiatives in science and technology education; and

President Clinton's statement in the 1994 report, "Science in the National Interest," that "science and mathematics education must provide our children with the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for the high-technology jobs of the future . . ."

The Action Plan, summarizing past successes and failures, set out broad objectives on the knowledge students should take from schooling; correcting the disparity in minorities who undertake science and engineering studies but never graduate; and reshaping the "enterprise" of math and science education to produce more minority graduates. …