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First Federal Legislation Promoting K-12 Engineering Introduced to Congress

June 25, 2010

There is a national concern that the country's preeminence in science and innovation is eroding. According to the National Science Board's 2010 Science and Engineering Indicators, only 5 percent of college graduates in the United States major in engineering, compared with 12 percent of European students and 20 percent of those in Asia.

Since no national programs support K-12 engineering in core academic classrooms, the National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®) at the Museum of Science, Boston drafted the Engineering Education (E2) for Innovation Act. The legislation is the first to promote K-12 engineering education specifically in core academic classrooms. The bill offers states planning, implementation, and evaluation grants to integrate engineering education, including standards, curricula, assessments, and teacher preparation, into K-12 instruction.

The NCTL applauds the leadership of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and House Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY-21) who introduced the E2 bill (S.3043, H.R.4709) on February 25 to Congress as well as the bill's many sponsors, led by Senators Edward Kaufman (D-Delaware) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine).

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand said: "Job growth and the future of the American economy require our continued ability to lead the world in innovation as we tackle the grand challenges of the 21st century -- from clean water to life-saving cures for diseases and biomedical developments to green energy. Much of the answer lies in classrooms across the country. This legislation will give schools nationwide more incentive to implement science and engineering education into K-12 curricula."

According to Sen. Ted Kaufman, "As a nation, our future success depends on our ability to produce a greater number of engineers."

Norm Augustine, former CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation, offered his "congratulations on this fine effort (to introduce K-12 engineering legislation)... I believe it is well aimed," explaining that "one of the many reasons our nation does not seem to attract young people into engineering is that many seem to have no idea what an engineer does. Although we attempt to teach math and science in K-12, seldom do we expose students to engineering."

The E2 for Innovation Act:

--authorizes the Secretary of Education to award planning grants and matching implementation grants to states to integrate engineering education into kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) instruction and curricula;

--requires each state that desires an implementation grant to develop quantifiable benchmarks for activities supported by such grants and submit them to the Secretary for approval;

--requires states to use implementation grants to: (1) establish assessment tools and challenging academic content and achievement standards for engineering education; (2) develop or obtain effective engineering education curricula; (3) develop or improve engineering teacher training programs; (4) recruit qualified engineering teachers for needy schools; (5) facilitate distance learning and online education in engineering; and (6) invest in after-school engineering education programs;

--directs the Institute of Education Sciences to support engineering education research and an evaluation of this Act's grant programs;

--requires the Secretary to use the evaluation's findings to provide information to the public and technical assistance to states on best practices and promising innovations in K-12 engineering education.

In effect, the E2 Act would:

--integrate engineering education into K-12 classrooms by designing challenging content and curricula frameworks and assessments that include engineering;

--increase engineering and technology teacher preparation programs and recruit qualified teachers to provide engineering education in high-need schools;

--increase student achievement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, & mathematics) subjects and knowledge and competency in engineering design skills;

--promote aspirations for a career in engineering among diverse students, in particular girls and underrepresented minorities;

--promote partnerships among K-12 school administrators and teachers, and engineering member bodies and professionals.

The NCTL drafted and built support for the E2 bill in only five months in response to a September 2009 report, "Engineering in K-12 Education" from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Research Council (NRC), which said the introduction of engineering education has the potential to improve student learning and achievement in science and mathematics, increase awareness about what engineers do and of engineering as a potential career, and boost students' technological literacy.

To read the E2 legislation, go to E2 legislation link below under Related Links and enter the bill numbers H.R.4709 or S.3043.

If you want to get involved, encourage your members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation. Contact their DC offices and ask to speak with their education legislative assistant (LA). You may have to leave a message. Ask them to consider cosponsoring the respective bills. Be sure to provide bill numbers, your name, address, and contact information. Congressional contact information is below under Related Links.

The bipartisan effort, which has involved several other cosponsors from both the House and the Senate, was endorsed by more than 100 organizations.

Related Links

The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500