In his 62-minute State of the Union address, President Barack Obama urged a bipartisan effort by the nation to clinch the future by investing adequately in education, technology and innovation.
The President proposed an extension of the partial spending freeze to five years, calling for targeted spending on children's education, development of clean energy, construction of a national high speed rail network and provision of wireless Internet service to 98% of the American population.
Obama's call for education focus is not unexpected and just marks a continuing emphasis on upgrading the quality of school and higher education in the wake of a growing realization that Americans have been lagging behind in the race with their global counterparts, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, which are considered critical to the competitiveness of the nation in the global marketplace.
The President's address on Tuesday also came shortly after federal sources reported results of the 2009 Science Assessment of Educational Progress in 4th, 8th and 12th grades. The results showed that only around 30% of students in these grades - 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders -- were performing at or above the proficiency level in science.
The assessment, administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), was given to 156,500 fourth-graders, 151,100 eighth-graders, and 11,100 twelfth-graders. Assessment questions measured students' knowledge and abilities in the areas of physical science, life science, and Earth and space sciences.
Speaking to The Washington Post, Francis Eberle, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association said, Essentially, it says that science hasn't been part of the agenda. Science has had very little attention.
Results also pointed to score gaps among racial/ethnic groups were evident at all three grades in 2009. The gap in average scores for White and Black students was 36 points at grades 4 and 8, and 34 points at grade 12. White students scored 32 points higher on average than Hispanic students at grade 4, 30 points higher at grade 8, and 25 points higher at grade 12.