State panel's data-based report shows need for Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science

An advisory committee created by the Kansas Legislature approved its final report this week, outlining data that show why the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science that will be created at Fort Hays State University is indispensable for the state's educational and economic future.

The Advisory Committee on Mathematics, Science & Innovation -- with 16 members representing the Legislature, the state's business sector and the education community -- met monthly from September through December 2007 to take a "fresh overall look at the challenge of equipping Kansans with the skills needed to underpin the state's prosperity in a 21st century economy."

The advisory committee's report, in the form of a data book, looks into five areas:
* Mathematics, science and innovation on the national level;
* Mathematics, science and innovation on the state level;
* Mathematics, science and innovation in K-12 education;
* K-12 mathematics and science teachers in Kansas; and
* Mathematics, science and innovation in post-secondary education.

Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president and a member of the Advisory Committee on Mathematics, Science & Innovation, said the report that was approved on Wednesday of this week shows that Kansas is failing to provide the kind of mathematics and science education that is needed to create a bright economic future. "The Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science will close that gap by identifying the best and brightest high school math and science students in Kansas and immersing them in an exceptional learning environment," President Hammond said.

The Kansas Board of Regents announced in December that FHSU had been selected as the home of the future KAMS, a residential academy for outstanding high school students from across the state. KAMS, which was established by legislation approved and signed into law in 2006, will ultimately enroll approximately 80 high school juniors and seniors who are academically talented in science and mathematics. Fifteen states, including neighboring Oklahoma and Missouri, have already established similar academies.

In its next session, which begins Monday, the Legislature will authorize funding for the new academy.
On the national level, the advisory committee's report shows that the United States' lead in science and technology is narrowing while the need for innovation-based economies require higher skills. The report shows that only Switzerland outspends the United States on K-12 education, and yet the United States ranks 22nd worldwide in math proficiency by 15-year-olds. "Americans will not continue to enjoy the world's highest standard of living without building capacity in mathematics, science and innovation," the report states. "U.S. reliance on foreign-born technical talent is a natural result of globalization, but also a warning sign that home-grown does not measure up."

On the state level, the advisory committee reported that the sectors most likely to generate significant numbers of high-wage jobs are knowledge-based. Educational attainment of the Kansas workforce ranks slightly above the national average, but employer surveys and gap analysis indicate long-term shortfalls in job categories requiring post-secondary education in technical fields. "Kansas' economic future depends on deepening its pool of technical talent," the report states. "The state is not producing sufficient technical talent to meet near-term needs and capitalize on long-term opportunities."

Focusing on K-12 education, the report shows spending by Kansas per pupil, at $7,776, is not as high as most states. Despite comparatively high achievement in math, the report continues, about half the Kansas students taking the national assessment score below grade level. "Despite Kansas' high achievement in math and science, a significant minority achievement gap persists and half the state's graduates are not ready for college-level work in these disciplines," the report states. "Kansas has an opportunity to collaborate productively with other states in meeting its mathematics, science and innovation challenges."

Research indicates that teachers play a critical role in math and science education, and the report shows that several factors have converged in recent years to put math and science teachers under increasing pressure. "Kansas has reached a crisis point in producing and retaining K-12 math and science teachers," the report states.

Finally, the report looks at post-secondary institutions, which provide the bridge between the K-12 system and the mathematics, science and innovation workplace. The report shows that state investment per full-time student in higher education is less than most states, and the state's production of baccalaureate and advanced degrees in the technical fields has remained flat in recent years in spite of rising overall enrollment. In addition, the report states, "The research and development expenditures of the state's three research universities are comparatively low."

"By creating the Kansas Academy of Mathematics and Science, our elective representatives have shown they are ready to address the multitude of challenges identified in the report from the Advisory Committee on Mathematics, Science & Innovation," President Hammond said. "We eagerly look forward to working with legislators in the coming session on the finishing touches for creating this marvelous new institution."

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