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American Society for Engineering EducationSEPTEMBER 2006Volume 16 | Number 1 PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
Woman of the World - BY PIERRE HOME-DOUGLAS
Getting in Gear -     BY JEFFREY SELINGO

REFRACTIONS: Engineering and the City - By Henry Petroski
ASEE TODAY: President's Letter - Conference Highlights - 2006 Awards - Calls for Papers
LAST WORD: Closing the Gender Gap - BY RAYMOND SIMON

YEAR OF DIALOGUE: A Focus on Scholarship - BY RONALD E. BARR
BOOK REVIEW: Leonardo's Lost Robots - BY ROBIN TATU
ON CAMPUS: Ready, Get Set, Go!

LAST WORD: Closing the Gender Gap - BY RAYMOND SIMONLAST WORD: Closing the Gender Gap - BY RAYMOND SIMON  

To stay competitive, the United States must attract more women to science and engineering.

It’s been said that mathematics is the language of the universe. Equally true is that math and science are the new currencies of the global economy. We live in a hyper-competitive world in which what you learn is far more important than where you live. And yet, far too many American students still do not see the deep rewards for those who master these vital subjects.

In this ever-flattening, iPod-loving, Tivo-watching world, our country cannot afford to lose half of its potential innovators.This must change. At the U.S. Department of Education, we are working to attract more girls and young women to math and science so that they may be ready to join the ever-widening science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career pipeline. Although women have made great strides, a gender gap still exists in certain fields, particularly engineering. In 2000, women accounted for less than a third of graduate students in the sciences and less than one-fifth of engineering majors. In 2003, just 1 in 7 engineers in the country was female. In this ever-flattening, iPod-loving, Tivo-watching world, our country cannot afford to lose half of its potential innovators. Our place in the world economy depends on the latest innovations in engineering.

In May, the Department of Education welcomed more than 100 female entrepreneurs, explorers and scientists to the first-ever National Summit on the Advancement of Girls in Math and Science. We teamed up with Girl Scouts USA and Sally Ride Science to look at the challenge of keeping girls interested in math and science as they advance through the K-12 system. We sought insight into how we can replenish our scientists, engineers and technological experts as the baby boomers reach retirement age.

We learned that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) can play a crucial role in accomplishing our goal. The law stresses proficiency in core academic subjects and requires that teachers be highly qualified in the subjects they teach. Under the law, students in grades three through eight (and once in high school) are tested in reading and mathematics, and science will be added this school year.

Since the law was enacted nearly five years ago, academic achievement has been on the rise. According to the Nation’s Report Card, math scores for 9-year-olds, 13-year-olds, fourth graders and eighth graders have reached all-time highs. Since 1999, female students’ scores improved nine points for 9-year-olds and five points for 13-year-olds. This has sparked an improvement in science as well, with across-the-board gains in test scores reported for fourth graders.

In his State of the Union address this year, President Bush launched the American Competitiveness Initiative. The proposal includes plans to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead Advanced Placement courses in mathematics and science; recruit 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms as adjunct teachers; and provide early help to students who struggle with mathematics.

Our hope is that this effort will spark the imagination of young girls, opening up new academic and career possibilities they might not have considered. We were told at the Girls’ Summit that if girls were participating in the quantitative disciplines to the degree they are represented in the general population, we would have immediately added over 1 million high-tech workers to our workforce.

The Department of Education is building an online clearinghouse of information to support this effort. We are also building partnerships throughout the public, private and nonprofit sectors. We hope to establish a steering committee of leaders capable of guiding the development of a cohesive, large-scale plan to engage young women in math and science and the STEM fields.

If we are serious about leaving no child behind, we must do more to ensure that our children will be ready and able to surge ahead in the competitive global workforce of the 21st century. That means encouraging more students, boys and girls alike, to pursue a STEM field and to sustain that pursuit as they grow older. Armed with that valuable currency, they’ll discover a universe of possibilities.

Raymond Simon is deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.



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American Society for Engineering Education