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Tough Budget Choices in Math, Science

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Few areas of education have proved as politically popular at the state level in recent years as efforts to improve math and science through teacher education and professional development, outreach activities to students, and other means. Governors, state legislators, and state boards of education in both Republican- and Democratic-dominated states, often at the urging of the business lobby, have taken up the cause.

Yet a story in the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal is a reminder that as budget pressures mount, legislators are facing increasing pressure to cut math and science programs, too.

State lawmakers in Michigan are considering chopping $2.5 million out of a program that has created 33 math and science centers to help students and teachers around the state, in communities from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. As other states scour their budgets for cuts, will math and science programs be relatively insulated, or vulnerable?

Perhaps not suprisingly, amid states' woes, several philanthropies, as well as the federal government, seem to be holding firm with their commitments. Grants from Exxon Mobil, which has taken a major interest in math and science teacher training in recent years, and the U.S. Department of Education continue to flow to "STEM"-related programs in communities across the country.

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In years past, math and science instruction has been at a more basic and analytical level.

Today, it has mutated into special education, ESOL and STEM with computer-based instruction and memorization.

Math and science funding needs to shift away from the trivialization of science in elementary kid-science and technology-related secondary science with podcasts and physlets to a more in-depth approach using older, seasoned educators.

It is far better that we incorporate laws, experimentation and deep insight into science than simply projecting memorized facts on the wall or investing disproportionate amounts of time on animated websites.

Forget standardized Praxis test scores and focus on funding educators with years of trials, tribulations and failures in laboratories who can impart real knowledge to the younger minds.

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