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Issues in Education

By: Debbie | February 8 2012 | Category: Issues in Education, Research & Technology, Tidbits for Teachers

Digital Learning Day Garfield LogoOn February 1, almost 2 million students and 15,000 teachers from 39 states and the District of Columbia celebrated the very first national Digital Learning DayExternal Web Site Policy.  The purpose of the event, hosted by the Alliance for Excellent EducationExternal Web Site Policy, was to show how technology is providing exciting, high-quality educational opportunities in classrooms across the country.

Technology can give students and teachers the chance to virtually visit museums and national parks, listen to lectures and educational programs, and connect with their counterparts in other places around the country and the world. Participants in Digital Learning Day connected with four schools via Skype and saw videos about innovative ways students are learning with the help of technology. For more about these schools and the videos, go to The 2013 will be announced soon!

To learn more about Digital Learning DayExternal Web Site Policy go to: Web Site Policy

Blog post written by Lisa Strauss

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Debbie | February 7 2012 | Category: Issues in Education, Research & Technology, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

Today (February 7), President Obama will host the second annual White House Science Fair celebrating the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration and its partners are taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects. You can watch the President’s remarks live at 11:25 a.m. EST at

Visit the live White House event at You can also join the live Facebook discussion at Web Site Policy and follow the White House Science Fair on Twitter via the hashtag #WHScienceFair

Over 100 students from over 45 states are heading to the White House with their robots, research and new inventions for the second ever White House Science Fair.

The White House is calling on folks across the country to join the Science Fair virtually! While students at the White House share their latest inventions--from a robotic arm to waste-reducing dissolvable sugar packets -- we want to hear about the projects you've worked on. They want you to share your favorite science fair project and share pictures on Twitter with the hashtag #WHScienceFair or through a form on They will display some of their favorite submissions on

Here’s how it works:

  • Starting now, you can ask your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat. We'll also be using the hashtag #WHScienceFair
  • At 2:00 p.m. today *February 7) Bill Nye the Science Guy (@TheScienceGuy) and Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (@WhiteHouseOSTP) will answer your questions live on Twitter. Follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account.
The White House Science Fair celebrates the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. At the fair, President Obama will view student projects and speak on the importance of STEM education. The President will also announce key steps that the Administration is taking to help more students excel in math and science, and earn degrees in these subjects.

The National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute Director, Dr. Harold Varmus is among the senior administrative officials who will be attending the science fair.

A sampling of the exhibits at the White House Science Fair include:

  • Student “Making” and Starting Small Business to Sell his Invention.   Fourteen year old Joey Hudy from Phoe nix , Arizona is already a Maker Faire veteran.  He invented an Extreme Marshmallow Cannon and an LED Cube Microcontroller Shield, which he has exhibited at Maker Faires in New York, San Francisco, and Detroit.  He received 2 Editors Choice Awards from Maker Faire, and has started a small business selling the microcontroller (Arduino) shield kits on several websites.  As the World's Largest Do-It-Yourself Festival, Maker Faire is the premier event for grassroots American inn ovation.
  • Designing a More Efficient Way to Collect Solar Energy.  Aidan Dwyer, a middle school student hailing from Northport, New York, won first place in the American Museum of Natural History’s 2011 Young Naturalist Award for his study of a more efficient way to collect solar energy.  Modeling the natural design of tree limbs which Aidan predicted must serve a benefit for the trees to optimize sun collected to feed photosynthesis in the short, dark days of winter, Aidan worked to devise a potentially more efficient way to collect solar energy.
  • Seventeen-Year Old Girl Designing Targeted Cancer Treatment.  Angela Zhang, a seventeen year old senior from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California, won the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology for using nanotechnology to eradicate cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for initiating and driving tumor growth yet are often resistant to current cancer therapies.  In her research, Angela aimed to design a nanosystem to target drug delivery to these cancer stem cells, which could potentially help overcome cancer resistance, minimize undesirable side effects, and allow for real-time monitoring of treatment efficacy.
  • Teenage CEO Inventing Dissolvable Sugar Packets to Reduce Waste.  Hayley Hoverter, a 16 years old student from Downtown Business Magnet High School in Los Angeles, California, won first place at the 2011 Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship's National Challenge for her idea for patent-pending ecologically conscious dissolvable sugar packets.  Hayley, now CEO of Sweet (dis)SOLVE, started her business as a part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE's) business plan competition.
  • Improving the Environment One Community at a Time. Isabel Steinhoff, Rico Bowman, Genevieve Boyle, and Mina Apostadiro, of Kohala Middle School in Kapaau, Hawaii, took first place in the grade 6-8 division of the Siemens “We Can Change the World” Challenge, for their household battery recycling effort to collect 6,000 batteries in 60 days.  The team, named 6000 in 60, embarked on a campaign to improve their community’s use and disposal of batteries by giving local people information on the environmental harm of batteries disposed improperly along with providing local opportunities for recycling.
  • Fifteen-Year Old Student Modeling Brain Control of a Robotic Arm.  Anand Srinivasan, a fifteen-year old sophomore from Roswell High School in Roswell, Georgia, qualified as a top 15 Finalist in the 2011 Google Science Fair.  Anand used data recorded via electroencephalography (EEG) from his brain and, after coupling it with the custom software that he wrote, used it to control a home-built robotic arm.  Anand believes that this technology could be put to use for amputees and patients suffering from paralysis and muscular dystrophy.
  • Team of Girl Scouts Seeking Patent on Prosthetic Hand Device Which Enables a Young Girl to Write.  A group of middle school-aged Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, including Gaby Dempsey, Mackenzie Gewell, and Kate Murray developed a patent-pending prosthetic hand device, winning them the inaugural Global Innovation Award at the FIRST LEGO League competition, beating out nearly 200 other submissions.  Their invention was in response to the need of a little old girl in Du luth, Georgia, enabling her to write for the first time although she was bo rn without fingers on her right hand.  Their patent pending BOB-1 has earned the girls the Heartland Red Cross Young Heroes Award, scholarships at Iowa State University College of Engineering, recognition on the Floor of the Iowa and the US House of Representatives, and the title of finalists for the 2011 Pioneer Hi-Bred Iowa Women of Innovation Awards.
  • Using Genes to Improve Farming< /em>.  Dyersburg High School senior, Maryanna McClure, made Tennessee Future Farmers of America history by becoming the first student from the Tennessee FFA Association to win the National FFA Agriscience Fair, placing first in Division II of the Zoology event, for her study of Cotswold sheep genetics.  Maryanna breeds, raises, and markets sheep and their fleece and was inspired to do a project to research how to breed the natural color of sheep back into the industry.  The National FFA Agriscience Fair is a competition for FFA members grade 7-12 who conduct a scientific research project pertaining to the agriculture and food science industries.
  • Young Women Rocketing to Nationals.  Janet Nieto and Ana Karen of Presidio, Texas were members of the Presidio High School Rocketry Team that competed as a National Finalist in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Gwynelle Condino, a 7th grade student at Lucy Franco Middle School, also of Presidio, Texas, is the leader of her TARC team this year.  All three girls have successfully competed in a number of rocketry challenges and have attended the NASA Student Launch Initiative Advanced Rocketry program.
  • High School Student Developing System to Detect Nuclear Threats.  The Davidson Academy of Nevada student Taylor Wilson, 17, of Reno, Nevada conducted research on novel techniques for detecting nuclear threats and developed an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and highly sensitive system capable of detecting small quantities of nuclear material. Taylor’s system, which won him the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and Best of Category in Physics, could be used as a monitor at ports to scan cargo containers for Uraniam-235, Weapons Grade Plutonium, and Highly Enriched Uranium.
  • Young Students Developing a Sanitizing Lunchbox.  Si xth graders Ma’Kese Wesley and Isis Thompson and their LEGO robotics team from the ACE Collegium Campus in Kansas City, Missouri researched ways in which they could improve food safety.  Their invention, a UV-light lunchbox, sanitizes food between when it is packed in the morning and a student opens to eat it at lunchtime.  A UV light, which is turned on by a darkness-detecting sensor when the lunchbox is closed, kills bacteria that could make the food unsafe to eat.  The FIRST LEGO League competition aims to engage kids ages nine to fourteen in engineering.
  • Succeeding at Science Even in Difficult Circumstances: Samantha Garvey, 18, of Bay Shore, New York, attends Brentwood High School -Sonderling Center in Brentwood, New York.  From a field of over 1,800 applicants, Samantha has been named a semifinalist for her Intel Science Talent Search 2012 environmental sciences project examining the effect of physical environment and predators on a specific species of mussel.  Despite personal obstacles, Samantha believes her education will bring her and her family a better life.
  • Student Designing a Robot to Connect Senior Citizens with their Families.  Concerned with the loneliness of seniors at his grandmother’s senior living center, fourteen-year old Salesianum High School (Wilmington, DE) student Benjamin Hylak of West Grove, Pennsylvania, built an interactive robot, which qualified him as a BROADCOM Masters 2011 Finalist.  His telepresence robot which moves around the center and allows seniors to connect via Skype with their family a n d friends when they are unable to visit in person, earned him second place in the BROADCOM Masters Engineering Category.
  • Building an Award-Winning Robot and Learning Entrepreneurial Lessons.   Morgan Ard, Titus Walker, and Robert Knight, III, 8th grade students at Monroeville Jr. High School in Monroeville, Alabama won high honors at the South BEST robotics competition.  BEST teams mimic industry by designing and developing a product and deli vering it to market, including a marketing presentation, engineering notebook, trade-show style exhibit booth and robot competition.   Through the experience, these middle school students not only learned the innovation and engineering  necessary to develop an award-winning robot, but the marketing and business  skills that spark true entrepreneurial spirit.
  • Writing a Video Game that Focuses on Saving the Environment.  Eleven year old Hannah Wyman who attends St. Anna's School in Leominster, Massachusetts, won the grand prize in her age group (9-12) for her video game Toxic, in Microsoft's first-ever U.S.  Kodu Cup. In Hannah’s game, which is now available for free on the Kodu Game Lab site, a player must solve puzzles and collect coins in order to remove soot from trees, zap pollution clouds to clean the air, and convince friends to plant more trees, all in an effort to save the environment.
  • Developing a Portable Disaster Relief Shelter. Jessica D’Esposito, Colton Newton and Anna Woolery from Petersburg, Indiana are representing the Pike Central High School InvenTeam, one of fifteen schools selected nationwide.  They won a grant from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop a lightweight, portable disaster relief shelter, designed to be complete with a water purification system and a renewable energy source to power an LED light, which could be used after disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes to house people who have been displaced.
  • Detroit Students Imagining the Energy Efficient City of the Future.  The Paul Robeson/Malcolm X Academy student team from Detroit, Michigan, competed in the Michigan Regional Contest of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition for the second year in a row.  Lucas Cain Beal, Jayla Mae Dogan, and Ashley Cassie Thomas, all aged 13, were part of a team that won the Excellence in Engineering Award at the 2012 Michigan Regional Competition focused on designing a city around the theme of "Fuel Your Future: Imagine New Ways to Meet Our Energy Needs and Maintain a Healthy Planet."   After being named Best Rookie Team in 2011, the students had to overcome losing their school to a fire.  Despite the adversity and having to merge with another school, the students were energized to take on the Future City challenge again, saying “(Future City) helps me make a better city to live in.”
  • Re-Designing a Helmet to Better Protect U.S. Troops.  Eleven-year old Jack Dudley of Stone Hill Middle School and Sydney Dayyani of Belmont Ridge Middle School are members of a Virginia team that designed a military helmet to protect soldiers from traumatic brain injuries on the battlefield due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs).  Both young students have previously competed in national science competitions and this past year won first place in the 2011 Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision competition with their HEADS UP! Helmet. The helmet is a redesign of the standard-issue military helmet and is equipped with bullet and shrapnel-stopping gels and highly sensitive temperature and air pressure sensors to notify medical personnel of the presence and level of brain injury.
  • Designing a Mine Detecting Device.  Marian Bechtel, a 17-year old Hempfield High School student from Lancaster, Pennsylvania was inspired to take on the serious issue of abandoned landmines which are still found in many place s around the world and investigated an innovative method for safe demining. Mar ian’s design could lead to a simple, cheap, and reliable humanitarian demining tool and earned Marian honors as a Finalist at the 2011 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.  Marian also won a second place award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association, a merit award from the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, a $1,000 award from the U.S. Army, and has recently been name d an Intel Science Talent Search 2012 finalist.
  • Developing A Concussion-Detecting Helmet to Combat Sports Injuries.  Fifteen year old Peninsula High School (Rolling Hill Estates, CA) freshman Braeden Benedict from Rancho Palos Verdes, California developed a low-cost impact detection device for use on youth and high school contact sport helmets.  Braeden’s invention, winning him the top prize of America’s 2011 Top Young Scientist  at the 2011 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, will allow coaches and trainers to be alerted that a player has received a hit with enough force to cause a concussion.
  • Student Programmer Creating Dynamic Educational Video Game.  Jasper Hugunin, a thirteen year old eighth grade student from Island Middle School on Mercer Island, Washington, developed a video game which introduces players to programming concepts as they provide instructions to guide a robot through increasingly challenging mazes.   This clever design of “Robot Commander” won Jasper the Playable Game, Open Platform and Playable Game, and Incorporating STEM Themes categories at the National STEM Video Game Challenge.
  • Exploring Improvements to Cancer Treatments by Overcoming Chemotherapy Resistance.  Shree Bose, a 17-year old senior at Fort Worth Country Day School in Fort Worth, Texas, took top honors at the 2011 Google Science Fair for her discovery of a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients when they have built up a resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs. Her conclusions hold tremendous potential for the improvement of cancer chemotherapy treatment and for future research. Shree has presented her research at numerous international competitions and has been honored as one of Glamour Magazine's 21 Amazing Young Women of 2011, spoken at TEDxWomen 2011, and served as a panelist at Google Zeitgeist.

For timely updates about science education, STEM, NIH research, and health and medical science, you can follow the NIH Office of Science Education through multiple channels:
By: Debbie | November 16 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, Research & Technology, Science News, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Journal of Emerging Investigators Promotional ImageCalling all future scientists--a group of Harvard University graduate students has created the new Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI). Students in middle and high school can submit their own original research and review articles to JEI--an open-access journal focused on the natural and physical sciences. Students can learn about the scientific review process and receive feedback from Ph.D. students working in specific areas of research. Top submissions will be accepted for publication in their online journal so that emerging young scientists like you can be recognized and your exciting work can be shared with the public.

JEI is now accepting submissions. You can learn more about this exciting new journal at:  www.emerginginvestigators.orgExternal Web Site Policy.
By: Debbie | October 28 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Science Lite, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

National Drug Facts Week LogoToday, I'm joining teens, parents, teachers, and scientists across America to kick off National Drug Facts Week by offering up my own shoutout for educating teens about drug abuse.

Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Drug Facts Week is an official health observance designed to shatter the myths and spread the facts about drug abuse and addiction.

Add your voice today and post your own drug abuse shoutout on your blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account—or wherever you see fit. When you choose to speak, you choose to act.

Events Across America
Teens, parents, teachers, scientists, and others are marking the occasion in communities all over the country, from Douglas, Alaska, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Unique events like scavenger hunts, poster campaigns, Halloween “Fright Nights” with giveaways, carnivals, and substance-free parties encourage teens to have meaningful conversations about drugs and addiction.
Learn more about today's "CyberShoutout" in support of National Drug Facts Week by checking NIDA's Sara Bellum Blog, which will be posting updates all day and recognizing the voices of those who participate—Yours could be one of them!
By: Debbie | September 16 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Research & Technology, Tidbits for Teachers

Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities Image of StudentsThe National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the largest Institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is seeking students with a passion to improve global health in the 21st century through a research career in allergy, immunology, or infectious diseases.

NIAID is looking for applicants for its Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities (INRO) program, which provides an invaluable opportunity for students with strong academic standing who are from populations underrepresented in biomedical research.

Candidates who are college-level seniors, medical school students, or doctoral candidates, and from a population underrepresented in the biomedical sciences are eligible.

During the 4-day program, students will hear lectures from world-renowned scientists and interview for potential research training positions at the Institute’s Maryland and Montana laboratories. This year’s program marks 10 years of INRO and takes place in Bethesda, MD, on the NIH campus, February 6–9, 2012. Students’ expenses for travel, hotel accommodations, and meals will be paid.

You can help us find the best and brightest applicants for INRO 2011 by doing the following:

    Add a link to the INRO program from your Web site.
    Print the program flyer and post it on a bulletin board.
Applications will be accepted from through October 15, 2011. Interested students can apply online through the program’s Web site.

Read success stories from previous INRO participants!
By: Debbie | September 8 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Science News, Tidbits for Teachers

High School Student with DNA ModelA new studyExternal Web Site Policy by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)External Web Site Policy, the country’s leading genetics scientific society, found that more than 85 percent of states have genetics standards that are inadequate for preparing America’s high school students for future participation in a society and health care system that are certain to be increasingly impacted by genetics-based personalized medicine.

“Science education in the United States is based on testing and accountability standards that are developed by each state,” said Michael Dougherty, PhD, director of education at ASHG and the study’s lead author. “These standards determine the curriculum, instruction, and assessment of high school level science courses in each state, and if standards are weak, then essential genetics content may not be taught.”

According to ASHG’s study, which included all 50 states and the District of Columbia:
  • Only seven states have genetics standards that were rated as ‘adequate’ for genetic literacy (Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington).
  • Of the 19 core concepts in genetics that were deemed essential by ASHG, 14 were rated as being covered inadequately by the nation as a whole (or were absent altogether).
  • Only two states, Michigan and Delaware, had more than 14 concepts (out of 19) rated as adequate. Twenty-three states had six or fewer concepts rated as adequate.
“ASHG’s findings indicate that the vast majority of U.S. students in grade 12 may be inadequately prepared to understand fundamental genetic concepts,” said Edward McCabe, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and geneticist who is the executive director of the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome at the University of Colorado. “Healthcare is moving rapidly toward personalized medicine, which is infused with genetics. Therefore, it is essential we provide America’s youth with the conceptual toolkit that is necessary to make informed healthcare decisions, and the fact that these key concepts in genetics are not being taught in many states is extremely concerning.”

“We hope the results of ASHG’s analysis help influence educators and policy makers to improve their state’s genetics standardsExternal Web Site Policy,” said Dougherty. “Alternatively, deficient states might benefit from adopting science standards from the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, which, although not perfect, does a better job of addressing genetics concepts than most state standards that are currently in place.”

The study was published in the American Society for Cell Biology's External Web Site Policy CBE–Life Sciences Education journal – for a full-text copy of the paper, please go to:

Related NIH Resources:
By: Debbie | September 1 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Science News

October 15 SciLife PosterRegistration for the October 15 National Institutes of Health (NIH) SciLife® event: The College Experience, opens today. SciLife® is an annual career and college planning event for high school students who are interested in the health and biomedical sciences. This event will take place on the Trinity Washington University CampusExternal Web Site Policy in Washington, D.C.

High school students, parents, and educators can participate in an
informational, fun-filled event.

At SciLife® you can:

  • Get inside information and advice from area leaders in the health and biomedical fields,
  • Explore career options in the health and biomedical sciences, and
  • Access college planning and organizational tools
After registering, mark your calendar and plan to arrive early on the day of the event, as the first 100 students to check-in will get a tour of the Trinity Washington University campus.
By: Margaret | April 28 2011 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community, Tidbits for Teachers

Don’t miss the chance to hear directly from children’s mental health experts at an upcoming free event that celebrates National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Watch a videocast to learn about the state of the science in children’s mental health and explore topics ranging from normal brain development to anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD.

What:  Connect the Dots: Understanding Children’s Mental Health Panel
When:  May 3rd from 2:00 to 3:30 PM EST
Where:  By Videocast

The expert panel features Drs. Ellen Leibenluft, Daniel Pine, Jay Giedd, and Benedetto Vitiello and is moderated by Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Register to watch the Connect the Dots videocast.
By: Gina | September 24 2010 | Category: Issues in Education

Postdoc in labEver wonder what it takes to manage your own research lab at the National Institutes of Health or a university?  Well as you might expect, you have to go to school for quite a while.  After you finish college you need to go to medical school to get doctorate of medicine (M.D.) or graduate school to get a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree.  So now you’re ready, right?  Not so fast.  Most people go on to work as post-doctoral fellows (postdocs) for 2-6 years before they get the chance to run their own lab. 

Postdocs, and there are approximately 89,000 of them involved in research at the NIH and in laboratories throughout the United States, are highly skilled workers.  They pursue basic, clinical or translational research and are responsible for many major advances in biomedical research and other sciences.  Being a postdoc is hard work but when you are doing work that you love with others who are just as fascinated by science it can be fun too.

Let’s salute the hard work and dedication of postdocs today on National Postdoc Appreciation Day 

Visit the National Postdoctoral Association Web site External Web Site Policy.  

 (National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2008)
By: Gina | June 2 2010 | Category: Issues in Education


Parents often wonder whether their child would be better off in a single-sex school. Social scientists do, too. Plenty of studies of children in elementary through high school have looked at performance and behavior in single-sex vs. mixed-sex schools. The verdict is still out, but there is some evidence that girls in single-sex schools may perform better and have different attitudes toward science, math, and related subjects than their peers in mixed-sex schools.


So what about little kids? Do young children develop more or less quickly in single-sex classes? That’s the basic question Arlen Moller and colleagues set out to answer for children 3.5 to 6 years old, but they added a bit more nuance. They looked at the effects on learning of the presence of the opposite sex and of the ratio of girls to boys. That is, does it matter if a preschool class is made up of seven boys and three girls or vice versa?


The researchers followed more than 800 children in 70 classes over 7 months. They found that girls performed pretty much the same regardless of class composition. It really didn’t matter to girls how many boys were around. 


On the other hand, boys performed significantly better in classes that were predominantly girls. In fact, even though boys generally develop more slowly than girls, in classes with disproportionately more girls, the boys developed at the same rate as their female classmates.


So where does this leave us? From a practical standpoint, we can’t put all boys in girl-dominated classrooms. We don’t have enough girls to go around. The authors do suggest, though, that schools may wish to move boys who are falling behind a bit to classrooms with more girls. 


This study might also help explain why it is not yet clear if class sex composition matters for older kids. Perhaps reanalyzing the data, taking the precise sex composition of the classes into account rather than just whether or not there were any students of the opposite sex around, would clarify the picture.



Moller, A.C., Forbes-Jones, E., Hightower, A.D., and Friedman, R. 2008. The developmental influence of sex composition in preschool classrooms: Boys fare worse in preschool classrooms with more boys. Early Childhood Research QuarterlyExternal Web Site Policy 23(3):409–418.

By: Paul | May 25 2010 | Category: Issues in Education

NCLB Logo with hourglassESEA Reauthorization: Time Is Running Out in 2010

This is the year the Administration and Congress are scheduled to get together and agree on a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known since 2002 as the “No Child Left Behind Act.” Time is running out, though, and there’s a good chance that other legislative issues and pressures will move to the top of the agenda. Action on the ESEA reauthorization would then have to be put off until January or February 2011.

With the benefit of the Administration’s “Blueprint for Reform,” the Senate and House education committees have already been holding hearings and collecting information on ESEA-related issues. An actual bill has yet to be introduced, however. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is committed to seeing one moved forward this year, he says. For that to happen, Congress will have to work on the reauthorization over the summer.

Competing for time on Congress’s calendar is a litany of high-priority issues, including overhauling the nation’s financial regulatory structure and coping with the growing importance of energy and immigration legislation, as well as the usual spending bills and, for the Senate, the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

Reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act requires time-consuming discussions of complex core issues such as standards of learning, teacher quality, and accountability, which threatens to derail the legislation. Secretary Duncan and the Administration are aware of this possibility, but they are focusing on an optimistic course that leads to an enacted bill before the election recess.

Blueprint for Reform
No Child Left Behind Act
By: Gina | May 19 2010 | Category: Issues in Education, Tidbits for Teachers

Image of entrance to RAMSIf you are one of the ~240 students who go to Starmont High School in Arlington, Iowa you may think you are pretty lucky.  You have the luxury of a small school in a great setting and a wealth of opportunities to take courses for college credit.  What, you say? How can a school with only 240 students make that happen?  The smart way.  By taking advantage of the nearby Regional Academy for Math and ScienceExternal Web Site Policy, or RAMS.

RAMS is a state-of-the art facility that gives high school kids the chance to take high level hands-on physics and engineering classes.  (Biology classes are coming next.) Many students who attend RAMS earn either AP credit or credit at Northeast Iowa Community CollegeExternal Web Site Policy.

Located in Oelwein, Iowa, RAMS is a stones throw away-at least by rural Iowa standards-from seven school districts, including Starmont.  All of these districts have been invited to send students to the academy.  So far, two years after it opened its doors, four have accepted.

RAMS isn’t the permanent home of any of the students. Instead students are shuttled out or drive themselves to the school a couple of times a week. The 20-30 minute rides are worked into the students’ schedules by scheduling RAMS periods adjacent to their free period.  RAMS also offers early morning classes to accommodate some students and students can video link in on days when they aren’t doing hands-on experiments. 

Why is this a big deal? Data in the Annual Condition of Iowa’s Community Colleges 2009External Web Site Policy report show that a degree from a community college pays off, and certain program areas pay off more than others.  The career and technical programs with the highest rate of return included science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Moreover, the idea for the academy grew out of brainstorming at the local economic-development group as a way to attract high-tech businesses to the area.  A skilled workforce will certainly help. 

By: Paul | April 14 2010 | Category: Issues in Education, Science News

The National Governors’ AssociationExternal Web Site Policy (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School OfficersExternal Web Site Policy (CCSSO) lead the Common Core Standards InitiativeExternal Web Site Policy. Its mission is to develop clear, rigorous standards for what students should learn in English language arts and math in every public school in every state in the country. Over the past few months, educators and states worked together to craft clearer and higher standards and drafted them into a coherent document. That collection of standards will become a gauge of the success in educating students and a guarantee that students who graduate are job and college ready.

The public comment period for the Common Core Standards ended April 2, 2010. The NGA and the CCSSO are making final adjustments to the document now, and they’ll release the final product to the states soon. Each state will set its own timetable for review and an adoption decision. Several states have already indicated an interest in moving ahead quickly and will begin the review process this spring, shortly after they receive the final document.

Although governors, state boards of education, and state legislatures rightfully will have the final say on the adoption of the Common Core Standards, many educators, business executives, and parents who are aware of the critical state of American education have been weighing in on the pro-adoption side. For example, Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel, in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal (April 6, 2010), stated, “I know that common education standards are essential for producing the educated work force America needs to remain globally competitive.” And Brian K. Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the Business Higher Education ForumExternal Web Site Policy (BHEF), said on April 7, 2010, “BHEF has endorsed the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and language arts, the adoption of which represents one of its top [preschool through high school] education priorities. In addition, BHEF has called for the adoption of science standards.”

The state-by-state decision process will evolve in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the fact remains that  American students need to improve their academic skills relative to their international peers if we as a country are to continue to successfully compete in the world economy. The Common Core State Standards offer a way to develop the skills of all of our students while preparing them for college or a career.


Business Hig her Education Forum endorsement statement
External Web Site Policy

By: Cindy, Paul | January 15 2010 | Category: Issues in Education

President Obama honors educators in math and scienceOn January 7, 2010, in the East Room of the White House, President Obama honored 120 teachers and mentors for “inspiring and educating a new generation in math and science.” The President was quick to point out that all of us have a responsibility to help build an education system that meets the needs of all students, today and for generations to come.
He stressed that the future of the United States’ leadership in scientific discovery and technological innovation -- and thereby its competitiveness in the world economy -- hinges on how our students are educated today, particularly in the STEM fields. Results from a recent international testExternal Web Site Policy show that U.S. students are being outmatched by their competitors (U.S. 15-year-olds ranked 21st in science and 25th in math out of 30 countries tested, for example). The President has set a goal “to move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade.”
A key part of the President’s plan is to improve the way we recruit, train, support, and retain good teachers. When the Recovery Act became law last year, the Federal government made its largest investment in education in history. It staved off the firing of 300,000 teachers and school workers prompted by state budget shortfalls. Other grants for “innovative programs to train new teachers” will be awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, the Department initiated a $4 billion Race to the Top fund that States will compete for by creating innovative programs, especially in science and math education.
President Obama explained that he’s expanding the “Educate to Innovate” campaign – a nationwide effort by citizens, nonprofits, universities, and companies to help improve math and science education.” To augment the multimillion-dollar initiatives by Intel and Dell, the President is asking all 200,000 scientists who work for the Federal government to participate in the campaign. He wants scientists to do whatever they can in their communities to advance science and math education, including speaking at schools, judging at science fairs, and “creating hands-on learning opportunities through efforts like National Lab Day.External Web Site Policy” The hope is that today’s scientists will ignite in students the same interests that drove them to pursue careers in science.
By: Gina | November 24 2009 | Category: Issues in Education, NIH Resources, Scientists in the Community

Cartoon people holding interlocking puzzle pieces.  One is labeled scientist.  The other educator.In response to President Obama’s new Educate to Innovate initiative and to support National Lab Day, the NIH Office of Science Education has added a new section to their Website - NIH Science Education Nation (SciEd Nation).  

SciEd Nation is designed for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and professionals interested in learning more about or becoming more involved in K-12 education in the United States.

At SciEd Nation science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students and professionals can:
•    Find out how U.S. students stack up to students around the world in reading, mathematics, science, and problem solving skills
•    Learn about contemporary K-12 schools and the typical day in the life of a teacher
•    Discover how to partner with teachers and schools to improve U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education
•    Learn how to enhance tangible support for science education among colleagues, managers, and administrators
•    Locate reference materials on education, education policy, communicating science, and partnership funding sources
•    Read about successful partnerships and their strategies for success as well as download “How-To-Guides” for common partnership activities

Stay tuned as more tips and resources are added to SciEd Nation over the next few months.
By: Cynthia, Gina | November 23 2009 | Category: Issues in Education, Science News

photo of President ObamaNLD connects teachers, students, scientists and community volunteers for hands-on learning. (See White House release.)

U.S. students will now have more chances to do what comes naturally -ask questions, explore, and test life's boundaries to better understand their world when President Obama announces a National Lab Day today.

The first NLD, scheduled for May, 2010, will celebrate community hubs - collaborations among volunteers, students and educators.  But it doesn't end there.  NLD is a nationwide initiative to build new and foster ongoing hubs for the long-term. Through these hubs, students can design, build, experiment, and explore in a real laboratory.

What is a real laboratory?  It's any place a student can explore, experiment, and test. We're not just talking about test tubes and beakers. A lab could be a laptop to a software designer, a mountaintop to a geologist, a computer link to a distant particle accelerator to a physicist, or a factory floor to an industrial engineer. It's a place where lessons in science, engineering, and technology can be designed to happen, or where math can come alive.  It could be anywhere in the physical or virtual world.

The NLD WebsiteExternal Web Site Policy will support hands-on learning across the country by serving as a place where educators and scientists will be able to connect to potential partners in their area and to find out what is happening around the country.  The site will also help them find resources to support, improve, and streamline their efforts.

In April '09 President Obama said "I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent -- to be makers of things, not just consumers of things."  NLD does just that.
By: Paul | October 8 2009 | Category: Issues in Education

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a speech before education association representatives on September 24, explained the importance of a timely rewriting of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the 2002 version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He invited the educators to join in the effort.  “Today, I am calling on all of you to join with us to build a transformative education law that guarantees every child the education they want and need, a law that recognizes and reinforces the proper role of the federal government – to support and drive reform at the state and local level.”
While crediting NCLB for emphasizing the achievement gap in schools and focusing accountability on student outcomes, Duncan also pointed out some of the key defects of the current law. He noted the NCLB does not lead to high learning standards. “In fact, it inadvertently encourages states to lower them. The net effect is that we are lying to children and parents by telling them they are succeeding when they are not.” The Secretary sees the need for a new ESEA that produces assessments that better measure student learning, as well as a system of accountability that includes the academic growth of students. “Our role in Washington is to support reform by encouraging bold, creative approaches to addressing under-performing schools, closing the achievement gap, strengthening the field of education, reducing the dropout rate, and boosting college access,” Duncan said.
This meeting with the education association representatives was the first of several events where educators and education leaders can offer their suggestions on the rewriting of the ESEA. The additional opportunities for the educators to have input will take place at the Department of Education headquarters (400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C.). The dates and times are:

  • Tuesday, October 13, 10:00-11:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, October 21, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
  • Friday, November 20, 1:00-2:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 2, 2:00-3:30 p.m.

These events comprise part of the Secretary’s “Listening and Learning” tour which by the end of the year will have led an event in all 50 states, Washington , D.C. and several territories.
By: Paul | September 11 2009 | Category: Issues in Education

President Obama Video ImageIn a televised speech to the nation’s school children on Wednesday, President Barack Obama urged all students to meet their obligations to themselves and their country by doing their best and achieving their personal goals. The President touched on the competitiveness of the world economy when he told students that they will be competing not just with each other for jobs, but with skilled students from around the world. He emphasized the importance of staying in school when he said, “You can’t just drop out of school and drop into a good-paying job.” He made it clear that students will need a good education to get a good job.
The President encouraged his viewers first to have education goals, then to commit to them and achieve them. Students have to prepare themselves for their futures, he said, when they will be able to help out and bear some of the load for solving the world’s problems and needs--whether that’s discovering a new disease-curing medicine or inventing the next iPod technology.
In addressing students about their educational responsibility, the President was welcoming into the education discussion the group that stands most to benefit from the current public and legislative debate over education funding, priorities, standards, and laws. As educators, parents, and elected officials work to provide 21st-century educational opportunities for our students so that they can compete on a level field with their international peers, the President took time yesterday to impress upon students their own vital role and responsibility in the education process.
By: Paul | July 24 2009 | Category: Issues in Education

Education SignU.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, in a recent articleExternal Web Site Policy addressed ‘…four assurances that will prepare K-12 students for success after graduation.’ He made it clear that he would be working with state leaders to assist them to create policies to implement these assurances.
To fulfill the first assurance, the states have to adopt rigorous K-12 standards that prepare students for success in college and the workforce. Second, they should develop data systems that will track from year to year whether students are making the progress they need to graduate from high school ready to succeed in college or the workforce. These data systems will also provide the information to determine if a teacher is effective in improving student performance. Third, the states need plans to find effective teachers and to make sure those teachers are working in classrooms where they will have the greatest impact on students who need the most help. Fourth and finally, states must have plans to turn around their lowest-performing schools.
In the first three areas, state and national leaders have made substantial progress according to Secretary Duncan, but when it comes to turning around troubled schools the necessary policy and political will is still lacking. Duncan asserts that at least 5,000 schools, about 5 percent of the total, are seriously underperforming. Approximately 2,000 high schools are dropout factories, where two out of five of their freshmen are not enrolled at the start of their senior year. In thousands of schools serving K-8 students achievement is low and not improving. Without aggressive action to improve these schools, the children in them will continue on the path to failure.
Secretary Duncan points to the fact that thanks to American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, resources are now available to address this problem. ARRA funds include $3 billion for the Title I School Improvement Program, which is specifically designed to cover interventions in low-performing schools. When this is added to the $545 million in the 2009 fiscal appropriation and the $1.5 billion proposed for fiscal 2010, school improvement will receive as much as $5 billion over two years. That is an unprecedented federal investment in fixing our lowest-performing schools.
In the past, school officials have been content to make changes that resulted in only nominal progress. They have been reluctant to make dramatic changes such as replacing the school leadership and staff or closing and reopening under new governance. Such limited intervention may lead to modest progress, but in our lowest-performing schools, that is just not enough. As an example of a better way to turn around low-performing schools, Secretary Duncan offers his experience in Chicago. His approach to the lowest-performing schools was to move the adults out of the schools and keep the students in the schools, and then move in new adults. He said, “it was the best and fastest way to create a new school culture, one in which student achievement was the primary goal.” Duncan is calling on the network of turnaround specialists to be ready to start work, and he is urging all key players, including unions, districts, and states to get in th e business of turning around our lowest-performing schools.
By: Paul | June 19 2009 | Category: Issues in Education

With the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan leading the way, the call for reform of the United States education system is resonating throughout the country. Teachers, unions, politicians, industry leaders, and interested citizens are voicing their ideas and concerns.
Last week, the Carnegie-Institute for Advanced Study Commission on Mathematics and Science EducationExternal Web Site Policyreleased its new report, The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global EconomyExternal Web Site Policy. In the report, the Commission argues the need to embrace a new reality in which the world has dramatically shifted, and as a result, an equally dramatic shift is required in educational expectations and design. The Commission points out that, knowledge and skills from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ­ (often referred to as the STEM fields) ­ are crucial to virtually every endeavor of individual and community life.  They reason that every American student should be STEM capable through a reformed education system.
Education reform is not a new concept, but the suggestion that math and science be placed at the center of a reformed education system is ground-breaking and encouraging news. Certainly it would be a unique strategy to have math and science laced throughout a school¹s curriculum and not restricted to one period every other day.
The Commission makes several recommendations and challenges to the nation include:
  • Establish common standards for the nation in mathematics and science standards that are fewer, higher and clearer ­ along with high-quality assessments
  • Improve math and science teaching
  • Redesign schools and systems to deliver excellent, equitable math and science learning
 This is a sizeable challenge. Do you think it is an achievable one?
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