Our Global Economy Demands A World-Class Education
Legislative column from Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua)
May 1, 2009
Earlier this week, I sat down for an interview with the New York State School Boards Association, the statewide voice of more than 700 local boards of education. We discussed my prior service as a member of the Honeoye Central School Board and an Adjunct Professor of adult and graduate education. During our conversation, I stressed the need for careful analysis of educational performance that measured true student achievement and not just “teaching to the test,” or similar cookie-cutter metrics that can miss how students actually learn. For example, some students possess a natural aptitude for mathematics, while others have exceptionally strong verbal and writing skills. Recognition of such strengths, and areas needing improvement, is key to establishing an individualized approach to learning that is most effective. Additionally, I outlined my belief that now, more than ever, all students need a world-class education that empowers them to succeed in our global economy. The fact that they are in direct competition with children not just in 49 other states, but China and India, is the new paradigm we must embrace for education policy. This is especially true when it comes to critical areas such as math and science, where the United States is falling short when measured against other nations. According to the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in math and science, American 15-year-olds were being outperformed by the majority of their peers around the world. The PISA also found that fewer 15-year-olds in the United States were taking physics and chemistry than students in other developed nations. Strengthening math and science education must be more than just a buzzword – there have to be solid public policies and achievable solutions behind this goal. Our Assembly Minority Conference recognizes this and has offered a series of initiatives called the “New Edison Project” to help promote math and science education. First, we proposed “Advanced Curriculum of the Sciences High Schools” that would establish either distinct high schools, or programs within high schools, to provide students with enriched math, science and engineering curricula. Second, we advanced an initiative that would establish a “Microscope Fund” through the creation of a low-interest loan of up to $50,000 to high schools across our state. Third, we developed legislation to establish a Corporate Tax Credit of 50 percent to New York businesses for gifts up to $50,000 for high schools participating in the Project Lead the Way initiative. Fourth, our Conference proposed creating a New York State-sponsored science fair intended to lead all the other states in participation and prizes awarded. Fifth, we sought a loan forgiveness program for math, science, engineering and high-tech graduates, along with enactment of an “Edison TAP,” which would expand New York’s successful Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to focus on individuals entering their sophomore year as full-time students enrolled in a math, science or engineering major. Some of our other New Edison Project proposals include the creation of a $2 million grant fund available to graduate students in all sectors to pursue scientific research related to their studies, and a State Commission on Science, Math and Technology to make specific recommendations on bolstering education in these essential fields. Key elements of a world-class education include local control, parental involvement and deep, strong roots in math and science. New York State can lead the way in the promotion of these critical areas and, in the process, help our students develop the skills necessary to excel in a global marketplace. It begins by making math and science instruction a priority. As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030 or e-mail me at email@example.com.