Math and Science Education:

Comprehensive Information About Federally Funded Materials Not Available

HEHS-00-110: Published: Jul 12, 2000. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on math and science education, focusing on: (1) the key efforts undertaken by the Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health, and the nine federal agencies under the purview of the House Committee on Science that support the development and dissemination of comprehensive kindergarten through 12th-grade mathematics and science curriculum materials and the characteristics of these efforts; (2) the extent to which federal agencies coordinated their efforts to develop and disseminate these materials; and (3) the extent to which agencies assessed the quality and use of these materials.

GAO noted that: (1) agencies used a variety of approaches to develop, promote awareness of, and distribute mathematics and science materials for kindergarten through 12th grade; (2) of the 11 agencies GAO surveyed, nine identified 210 projects that were actively developing mathematics and science materials in fiscal year 1999; (3) Education and the National Science Foundation supported the development of two-thirds of these projects as part of their effort to improve the teaching and learning of math and science; (4) however, most other agencies GAO reviewed generally developed these materials as part of their goal to increase public awareness of a specific subject, rather than to improve math and science education; (5) overall, the materials incorporated the use of technology, such as computer software and the Internet, and projects tended to focus on science rather than math; (6) to promote and distribute these materials, agencies generally relied most heavily on resources that were available within the agency, such as agency-sponsored conferences and workshops and agency publication distribution centers; (7) in addition, agency officials reported that there is a trend toward making the materials available on-line through the Internet; (8) to some extent, agencies producing math and science materials coordinated their efforts within and across agencies and with state and local organizations; (9) some agencies coordinated efforts on an informal basis; (10) some agencies also made some effort to coordinate with state and local organizations in developing math and science education materials; (11) agencies generally relied on their own distribution mechanisms to disseminate information about materials rather than coordinating dissemination efforts with other agencies; (12) although the National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education (Eisenhower Clearinghouse) was established to serve as a central source of information about math and science materials, most agencies did not send the clearinghouse copies of all their math and science materials; (13) as a result, no single comprehensive resource for all federally sponsored materials is available to educators seeking to make informed decisions about these materials; and (14) information was available about the quality of some of the federally developed mathematics and science materials, but little information was available on the extent to which these materials were used in the classroom.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On June 26, 2001, the agency partially implemented GAO's recommendation by cosponsoring a workshop on the evaluation and dissemination of math and science education materials. During the workshop, an Eisenhower Clearinghouse representative discussed, with officials from the federal agencies in attendance, the requirement that each federal agency submit copies of all the math and science materials they develop to the clearinghouse. Also discussed were the clearinghouse's congressionally mandated role as a permanent repository of math and science materials, as well as the types of resources the clearinghouse collects. On September 9, 2002, Education reported that the Eisenhower Clearinghouse staff had established guidelines and procedures for federal agencies to use in submitting materials to the Clearinghouse, and posted them to its web site.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Assistant Secretary for Educational Research and Improvement to ensure that all agencies are aware of their responsibilities to submit materials to the Eisenhower Clearinghouse by notifying them of the requirements under the act and establishing guidelines for agencies to follow in submitting the materials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On June 26, 2001, the agency implemented GAO's recommendation by cosponsoring a workshop on the evaluation and dissemination of math and science education materials. During the workshop, agency officials discussed, with officials from the federal agencies in attendance, the evaluation of math and science materials including quality review procedures for math and science materials and the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061 process for evaluating materials.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education and the Director, National Science Foundation, should inform agencies that do not generally evaluate their educational materials about the importance of conducting such evaluations and about mechanisms available for evaluating their materials, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science's and Education's expert panel process.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On June 26, 2001, the agency cosponsored a workshop on the evaluation and dissemination of math and science materials. During the workshop, agency officials discussed, with officials from the federal agencies in attendance, the evaluation of math and science education materials including the principles and practices for evaluating these materials and the evaluation efforts of the Eisenhower Clearinghouse.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education and the Director, National Science Foundation, should inform agencies that do not generally evaluate their educational materials about the importance of conducting such evaluations and about mechanisms available for evaluating their materials, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science's and Education's expert panel process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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