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Iowa City Rotary Speech April 2007

This is the prepared script for the speech, not an exact transcript of President Allen's remarks. Unscripted comments during the speech may not be reflected in this copy.

University of Iowa Athletic Club
April 5, 2007

UNI’s Leadership Role in Challenges Facing Pre-K through 12 Education, Specifically in the Disciplines of Math and Science

  1. Introduction
    1. Thanks, Charlie Funk, for inviting me to speak today.

      Thank Bob Downer for the introduction.

      I want to say “thank you” to the Iowa City Rotary for the invitation to speak with you today.

      The fact that I am here in Iowa City speaking about one of the “other” regent’s institutions speaks volumes about the interest in and the commitment to higher education in Iowa that the Rotary has.

      I believe that we have an excellent system of public higher education here in the State of Iowa. 

      Each of the three state universities has its own mission, but all serve the entire state.  The University of Northern Iowa is proud to be one of those three state universities in the system. 

      Since last June, I have learned much about UNI.  The more I learn, the more I can see the excellence at UNI, the valuable role our institution plays in the State of Iowa, and where we should and can take the lead on important issues.

      Specifically, I have learned

      • that the focus is on undergraduate education.

      • that personalized learning is important at UNI and is implemented by having small class sizes that are taught by tenure or tenure track faculty.

      • that UNI has a quality undergraduate program—a program with strong relevant majors and a strong liberal arts core. 

        • An example of one of those strong areas is the accounting program where our students consistently score in the top ten on the first try of the CPA examination.

      • I have also learned about some of the many successful graduates from the University of Northern Iowa, such as:

        • Mark Oman of Wells Fargo

        • Mike Hogan, Provost here at U of I

        • Judy Jeffrey, Director of Education for the State of Iowa

        • U. S. Senator, Charles Grassley

        • And that of our outstanding alums, some 56,000 live here in Iowa.

        • Over 1700 reside here in Johnson County   1740 Alumni

        • And, a very significant fact for the State, over 75% of UNI alums take their first job in Iowa.

      • I have also learned that for the tenth consecutive year, UNI ranked second in the U. S. News & World Reports “Midwestern Universities—Masters” for public universities.  But we need to be number one!

      • And that UNI places approximately 500 student teachers in 40 to 50 Iowa counties every year.

      • that UNI has very strong programs in the arts, highlighted by an outstanding performing arts center, the Gallagher-Bluedorn Center, that attracts outstanding performers and performances.

      • that we have the best men’s and women’s track and field team in the State of Iowa, with six of our student    athletes from Iowa City, including Ryan Grenko, from Iowa City High, who was 1 of 7 qualifying for the spring NCAA Indoor Track & Field National Championships.  

      •  that our men’s basketball team can beat ISU at home, beat U of I away from home, and lose to Drake at both home and away.

      • I also learned that, as one might suspect, there are opportunities for UNI to grow, improve and most importantly take a leadership position on issues important to the State of Iowa.

    2. Math and Science Teacher Education

      I would like to focus on one of those areas --teacher education—in particular, math and science education.

      With its rich history, size, and quality, UNI is positioned to be a leadership role on issues related to math and science teacher education.

      • Over the last 130 years, the impact of the University of Northern Iowa on pre-K through 12 educational systems in the State of Iowa and beyond has been extraordinary.

      • While more than 30 academic institutions in Iowa have teacher education programs, more than 23 percent of the 36,000 plus public school teachers in the State of Iowa are UNI graduates.

      • Nearly one-third of Iowa’s superintendents and principals are UNI graduates.

      • In Johnson County alone, we have 243 alumni in education.

      • We are positioned and must respond to one of the most important educational needs in the state—that of improving math and science education in pre-K through 12 and in providing the state with more math and science teachers.

      • We have a good start, as we:

        • Have produced more chemistry graduates than any other college or university in Iowa for the past 15 years.

        • This is all Chemistry graduates (teaching + non-teaching) per Jeff W. 

        • Over the past 10 years, we have awarded 361 secondary math orscience teaching(bachelor) degrees, 73 science teaching masters graduates, and 124 math teaching masters graduates.    

361 = total teaching degrees awarded in Math
OR Science

(Non-teaching information was excluded from these counts – per Jeff Weld.)

    1. So why is the need to continue in this direction so Great?

      International comparisons are not encouraging

      • The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), revealed that U.S. 9-year olds scored somewhat above average, 13-year olds, near the average, and 17-year olds well below average (when compared to 41 other countries and 500,000 students).

      • Despite some gains, most American students perform below par on national science and math assessments, with large and persistent achievement gaps existing between various ethnic and racial subgroups.

      • On a recent National Assessment of Educational progress test, just one-third of 4th and 8th graders scored at or above the proficient level in math.

        • In science, roughly one-third of 4th and 8th graders scored at the proficiency level and nearly one-half of the high school seniors did not reach even the basic level of competence.

      • The report “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” published by the National Academies of Science, has a compelling statement about the relationship between the economic future of the United States and math and science education.

      • It states that four high-priority actions must be taken for the U.S. to remain competitive in a global economy

      • one of these is to increase America’s talent pool by vastly        improving K-12 science and mathematics education.

      • Projections show that by 2015, we will see a shortage of 283,000 highly-qualified math and science teachers for K-12, with the shortage being more pronounced in rural, low-income, and urban areas.

      • The report calls for recruiting 10,000 college students to become K-12 math and science teachers

      • xcels in offering teacher preparation programs in the sciences, mathematics, computer science and technology.

      • Our College of Education has 2,722 graduate and undergraduate students studying with 232 faculty (126 tenure, 31 tenure-track, 75 non tenure-track) in a dynamic and interactive environment that puts cutting-edge theory into practice.  

      • Our College of Natural Sciences educates students to live and work in an increasingly scientific and technological world. The College e

      • We have close to 30 faculty dedicated to math and science teacher preparation.  They also conduct research, and provide educational outreach in math and science. 

      •  (per Jeff W. and the Col. of Ed. = 29 faculty.  Per Jeff, do not need preK-12 – but rather just state in m/s education area.)

      • Some of our outstanding ongoing projects in the math and science education area include:

      • Dr. Timothy Cooney, Professor of Science Education, has directed or co-directed local and global science education initiatives totaling $6 million in grant funding while authoring numerous books for students and teachers of science. 

      • Dr. Lyn Countryman, Associate Professor of Biology and Science Education, is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. 

      • For the Iowa Department of Education, three Math Education faculty used their expertise to develop and implement Every Student Counts, an extended professional development program for middle grades teachers for the last several years. 

      • Nationally, two faculty members were coauthors for a teacher resource for the National Council of Teachers in Mathematics’ standards-based Navigations.

National performance standards are not encouraging

State indicators are not encouraging

The three industry sectors of Iowa’s New Economy--bioscience, advanced manufacturing, and information solutions-•require a workforce with well-developed math and science skills and the foundation of those skills are built during the Pre-K through 12 years.

According to a recent report by our State Department of Education, Iowa is 173 teachers short in science and 121 teachers short in mathematics, with many retirements coming soon.

The issue of improving Math and Science education has become a high priority for a number of organizations, including the Iowa Business Council, which developed a HOT team to address the issue—the team is headed by Tom Hobson, Senior Manager, of Rockwell Collins. 

(This HOT team is still in the formative stages, and is primarily in the cr/ic area through the STEM initiative in local school districts.  They plan to have some conversations with Culver and the IMS coalition. Per E. Smith 4/3/07)

In the report “Charting the Future of U. S. Higher Education”

U. S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, states, “To meet the challenges of the 21st century, higher education must change from a system primarily based on reputation to one based on performance.” (pg. 21)

With UNI’s long history of developing innovative programs and preparing large numbers of teachers in the math and science area, we are positioned to address these issues and make those changes. 

    1. Based on our quality teacher education program and experience, UNI will provide leadership to a collaborate Regent’s initiative that has three basic goals:
      1. To improve mathematics and science performance of Iowa students.

      2. To prepare more high quality mathematics and science teachers for Iowa’s schools.

      3. To bridge the gap between K-12, the community colleges, and the Regents universities.

This initiative states we need a coherent, long range plan for Iowa’s Regent’s Universities, to work collaboratively toward these goals with K-12 schools and with the community colleges.

The strategies for meeting these goals will be characterized by building K-16 learning connections that can become systemic, are sustainable, and are long-term.

This collaborative effort will require leveraging the efforts at each University.  Each university has talented faculty in this area.   We can better serve the state by working together.

The first step is meeting with the relevant faculty and administrators at ISU and U of I to learn more about what they are doing and plan to do. 

Yesterday, a team of UNI faculty and staff met with ISU faculty, and this morning, our Provost, Jim Lubker, College of Natural Sciences Dean, Joel Haack, and faculty members Jeff Weld, and Jody Stone met with U of I faculty. 

  1. Commitment

    In my installation speech delivered last September, I stated that “UNI needs to have the courage, the confidence, and the commitment to take the lead in addressing one of the most important challenges facing Iowa today—the need to better prepare students for higher education and for the workforce of today and tomorrow”.

    This initiative in math and science education provides all of us at UNI with this opportunity.

    For the State of Iowa, our citizens, our youth, now is the time to invest and increase our educational capital, through a collaborative statewide educational initiative to improve math and science education.

    That is my personal goal and commitment.

    Thank you.