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Leading the News

TIMSS Shows US Students Still Behind Many Asian Peers In Math And Science.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Brown) reports the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was released Tuesday, finding that although US eighth-grade students have displayed “some improvement in math and science over the past four years,” US fourth-grade students’ performance “was stagnant and students in both groups continued to trail many of their peers in Asia.” The results are likely to spur “renewed debate among politicians, educators and business leaders about why math and science achievement has not improved more quickly relative to other nations.” According to TIMSS, “the average score of U.S. fourth-graders in math put them behind students in 10 other systems.” US students ranked comparably to other nations in science. Executive Director of the National Science Teachers Association David Evans attributed slow progress to the fact that “Americans so often treat science and math as inscrutable fields of study that aren’t essential to becoming educated in the same way that reading and writing are.”

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) explains that the TIMSS “is given to fourth and eighth grade students every four years, and is designed to reflect student learning from official curriculums, thereby testing school-based learning.” The Monitor says US educators are sanguine about the results, quoting National Council of Teachers of Mathematics President Matthew Larson saying, “Certainly we have much more work to do and achievement is not as high as we would like to have it. But the trajectory is positive, and it may indicate that some of the efforts we’ve made over the past two and a half decades are making a difference.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) reports the results show that US students “have gotten better at math since 1995, according to new data out today” and that “eighth graders have also made additional improvements since 2011, while fourth graders have stayed steady since then.” Despite the gains, “U.S. high school seniors who are considered advanced haven’t gotten any better at advanced math and physics since 1995” and there is a significant high school gender gap.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Kerr) reports the results show US students “lag behind a solid block of East Asian countries” in math and science, though “eighth graders in the United States improved their scores in math over the last four years.” The AP notes that Singapore topped the list, with Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan also edging the US.

The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Hobbs, Subscription Publication) reports that 57 countries and education systems take part in the TIMSS test, which is administered by the IEA TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College. The Journal quotes acting National Center for Education Statistics Commissioner Peggy G. Carr saying, “Fourth and eighth-grade students in a handful of education systems—almost all in Asia—continue to score higher, on average, than students in the United States. But U.S. students in fourth- and eighth-grade have made considerable progress in mathematics since the mid-1990s.”

Higher Education

For-Profit College Sector Expects Regrowth Under Trump.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Binkley) reports that the for-profit college sector “is celebrating Donald Trump’s election as a chance for a rebound” after a strict regulatory environment under President Obama. For-profit lobbyists “have received a warm welcome from Trump’s transition team and already have launched a campaign to rebrand the embattled industry as a key to the new president’s plan for economic growth.” Moreover, the sector hopes Trump will scale back such regulations as the gainful employment rules.

California Higher-Education Leaders Urge Trump To Save DACA.

The San Francisco Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Asimov) reports California higher-education leaders on Tuesday sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, requesting that he save the DACA program. The letter said, “These sons and daughters of undocumented immigrants are as American as any other child across the nation, in all but in the letter of the law. … They are constructive and contributing members of our communities.”

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Xia, Watanabe) also reports the letter said undocumented immigrants “represent some of the best our nation has to offer…we implore you to let them know they are valued members of our communities and that they will be allowed to continue to pursue the American dream.” The article notes the letter follows on the heels of an open letter signed by 300 college presidents in support of the DACA program.

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) reports that University of California President Janet Napolitano, California State University Chancellor Timothy White, and other higher education leaders in California “are sending a letter today to President-elect Donald Trump, asking him to reverse course and keep the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program,” which “protects undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from being deported.” Trump has vowed to end the program, enacted under an executive order from President Obama.

Colleges And Universities See Slower Paced Tuition Increase.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Douglas-Gabriel) reports Moody’s Investors Service released a report Tuesday finding colleges and universities lacking “a distinctive brand or value proposition are” suffering the most under the competition for students and increase of “cost-conscious families.” According to the study, “the money earned from students after schools provide financial aid — will grow roughly 2 percent to 2.5 percent for fiscal 2017.” Moody’s determined that state flagships and public research universities have the highest “chance of achieving around 3 percent net tuition growth due to enrollment in graduate and professional degree programs as well as the attraction of out-of-state students.” Amid private institutions, “the financial prospects are strongest for large schools that can capitalize on brand identity and program diversity.” For these schools, a net tuition revenue growth of three percent is expected. Conversely, almost 40 percent of small private colleges are predicting a decline.

Safe Zone Ally Training
Join us for a free Safe Zone Ally Training webinar on December 6, 2016 at 3 PM, ET on LGBTQ and engineering culture. Learn more about the impacts that STEM culture has on LGBTQ inclusion, and explore different ways that you can support increased diversity on your campus. Register today – space is limited.

NEW Report: “Small Schools” by the Numbers
Smaller engineering schools are often missing from our annual “By the Numbers” summary, because of the way it’s tabulated. We have created a “Smaller Engineering by the Numbers” to feature these schools.

Prism Podcast
The Mobile Virtual Player is a new development keeping football players safe, created by Dartmouth engineering students. Listen to the short podcast on the invention here.

Research and Development

MIT Researchers Freeze Water At Boiling Point In Carbon Nanotubes.

The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) reports that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently “put water into carbon nanotubes and were surprised to find that the liquid water changed to a solid state.” The discovery opens “an unknown field of study: how water reacts when confined in a space on the nanometer, or billionth of a meter, scale.” Researchers speculated on such practical applications as “formation of tiny ‘ice wires’ that could, in theory, be used in various practical and experimental capacities.”

Army Researchers Develop More Flame-Resistant Uniforms.

Military Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/28, Cox) reports on US Army researchers’ work “to improve the service’s flame-resistant, protective apparel by developing a U.S.-manufactured, wool-blend uniform.” The article describes how 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team soliders “participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise.” The article says Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) researchers have planned “a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days.”

BAE Designs MATRICs Chip Under DARPA Adaptive RF Program.

IHS Jane’s 360 Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Fein) reports that BAE said it is designing a Microwave Array Technology for Reconfigurable Integrated Circuits (MATRICs) chip as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Adaptive RF Technology program. BAE said the monolithic integrated circuit (IC) addresses “the need for radio systems to quickly and easily be reconfigured in the field.” The new, general-purpose chip also “enables engineers to develop customised radio systems without the need for application-specific chips that are expensive and time consuming to develop, according to a BAE Systems representative.”


Guest Writers Promote Presence Of Women Of Color In STEM.

In an opinion piece for Diverse Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Moore, Wheaton, Leggette, Kupenda), Loretta A. Moore, Deidre L. Wheaton, Evelyn J. Leggette, and Angela Mae Kupenda write on the importance of women of color in STEM fields. According to the group, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions play a key role providing communities of color “access to jobs with higher incomes for graduates in growing fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).” Moreover, “women of color faculty in STEM provide groundbreaking teaching, tireless service, and, yes, innovative scholarship.” The authors assert plans are immediately necessary “for planned mentoring and scholarly communities and networks to encourage” women of color. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has addressed the need, providing grants and awards at HBCUs to promote “an environment conducive to focusing on scholarship.” The NSF plans to continue making “valuable experiences available to more academic women of color and to broaden the community of scholars to other institutions.”

Global Developments

Ford To Begin Testing Self-Driving Cars In Europe.

The Verge Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Golson) reports Ford announced on Tuesday that it is expanding its on-road autonomous car testing to Europe next year. Additionally, the car manufacturer pledged to have autonomous vehicles available for ride-sharing fleets by 2021.

The company told TechCrunch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Etherington) that it will launch testing at its British-based Engineering Center and then at two of its German-based Research & Advanced Engineering facilities. Ford explained that the three facilities are already well-versed in the company’s driver-assist technology strategy and well-positioned to lead its European efforts.

According to Business Insider Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Thompson), Ford’s fleet already has about 30 self-driving cars, but intends increase that number to 100 in 2017. Unlike other car manufacturers, Ford’s fully-autonomous cars will lack steering wheels and gas and brake pedals because the company believes semi-autonomous vehicles pose a potential liability.

Industry News

Study Forecast 15 Million Self-Driving Cars In 2025.

MediaPost Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/28, Pazienza) reports that according to a study by Juniper research, 15 million self-driving cars will be produced in 2025. The article notes that the NHTSA and the Society of Automotive Engineer distinguishes between five levels of classification for autonomous vehicles.

Engineering and Public Policy

Group Calls On President-Elect Trump To Appoint Adviser For Science And Technology.

The Huffington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) reports, “The leaders of 29 U.S. research and academic institutions have urged President-elect Donald Trump to name a senior science adviser during his ongoing appointment pageantry, stressing the need for ‘science and technology to address major national challenges.’” The group “sent a letter to Trump on Nov. 23,” saying in order to address “a wide range of domestic and international challenges, from protecting national and energy security, to ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness, curing diseases, and responding to natural disasters,” President-elect Trump needs to appoint “an adviser with the title assistant to the president for science and technology.” This person should have the “scientific knowledge and technological expertise to address” the issues “successfully.”

Interior Official Urges Trump To See Coal Country Environmental Devastation, Defends Stream Rule.

Bloomberg BNA Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Lee) reports that Interior Department director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Joseph Pizarchik, told Bloomberg that President-elect Donald Trump “should go witness first-hand the effects of coal mining in Appalachia before embarking on his plans to ramp up coal production and scrub environmental regulations.” Pizarchik said that in northeastern Pennsylvania, “He can see thousands of acres of dangerous mines, polluted mine water,” and “communities, communities that were abandoned by companies after they destroyed the land and water.” Bloomberg reports Pizarchik still intends to issue OMSRE’s stream protection rule “which would limit generation of coal-mining waste and its placement in streams.” If the rule is issued before Trump takes office, Congress may intervene, but Pizarchik said the final rule has been adjusted and “will create more than twice as many jobs as will be impacted,” adding that “coal miners need jobs.”

Trump’s Possible Removal Of Climate Science From NASA Could Hurt Maine Researchers. The Christian Science Monitor Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Dussault) reports President-elect Donald Trump’s potential to curb NASA’s role in climate research could shift those responsibilities to agencies such as the NOAA “which have less experience in space-based research and tighter budgets.” The impact would be felt at Maine-based research centers which “rely heavily on NASA’s satellite data.” Without NASA’s work, “Maine scientists say, it could be difficult to track environmental changes in the region and beyond, as the state has become something of a hub for climate research,” and large-scale initiatives “might struggle to secure funding without sound data sets.”

Porter: Report Suggests Trump’s Climate Policies May Help Planet. In his “Economic Scene” column in the New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Porter, Subscription Publication) Eduardo Porter suggests that Trump’s climate policy “could work out in surprising ways.” He cites a report from the Breakthrough Institute noting “real progress on reducing carbon in the atmosphere has been driven so far by specific domestic energy, industrial and innovation policies, ‘not emissions targets and timetables or international agreements intended to legally constrain national emissions.’” The report suggested that although the Clean Power Plan and Paris accord may be dropped under Trump, so long as the administration “keeps the nation’s nuclear power plants online, continues tax incentives for wind and solar energy and stays out of the way of the shale energy revolution,” the U.S. may “outperform the commitments that the Obama administration made in Paris.”

EPA To Withdraw Air Pollution Regulations For Seven Coal-Fired Plants In Texas.

Fuel Fix (TX) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Handy) reports the EPA announced that “it plans to voluntarily withdraw a requirement that seven Texas coal-fired power plants reduce pollution, according to a filing with a federal appeals court.” The “so-called regional haze rule” is a “part of the Clean Air Act and was proposed two years ago with the goal of cleaning up the air in national parks.” The act requires that states to develop “a plan to address air pollution, or else be forced to implement a plan compiled by the EPA.” Texas refused “to create a plan, and along with power plant owners took its objections to the EPA’s plan to court.” The agency “said it plans to soon file a motion to withdraw the regional haze rule with U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is reviewing it.” According to the Sierra Club, the agency isn’t “expected to scrap the rule, but rather to reevaluate its requirements come back with a reworked rule.” E&E Publishing Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(11/29, Subscription Publication) says the move by the EPA “to drop the plan could spell victory for Texas state officials and the utilities that sued to block it.”

Green Energy Project Owners Seek Subsidies Under New York’s Clean Energy Plan.

POLITICO New York Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Griffiths) reports that “existing wind farms, hydropower plants and biomass generators want New York to pay them for their contributions to meeting renewable energy targets” or “they may sell the power they generate to other states or, in the case of wind farms, shut down entirely.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy goals assume the existing renewables will remain in New York’s market along with new capacity. “Audrey Zibelman, the chair of the Public Service Commission, said she is not concerned about existing renewables leaving New York.” Wind project owners say, the price signals sent by New York policymakers would support the company “dismantling the existing wind turbines and selling their respective sites to new generators which could re-erect similar turbines” and get state incentives.

More Than 60 Business Leaders Testify Against Ohio’s Plan To Freeze On Renewable Energy.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29) reports more than 60 witnesses testified before the Ohio Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee against extending a freeze on renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates. “Having a renewable standard that has become uncertain makes little business sense,” some business leaders said. Solar developers testifying “said in interviews that while they remain headquartered in Ohio, their work has moved to other states with steady green standards – taking jobs and capital investments with them.”

Santa Monica Aims To Build California’s Most Sustainable Building.

The Los Angeles Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Swenson) reports that Santa Monica “hopes to construct a 50,000-square-foot city services building that will meet…the most stringent environmental building standard in the world.” To meet the International Living Future Institute’s “Living Building Challenge,” the facility must feature “net-zero energy and water usage” as well as be “equitable and beautiful.” The Times reports that “only 11 projects in the world can boast Living Building certification” and that if it succeeds, Santa Monica “will have built the most sustainable structure in California’s history.”

Experts Say Clean Energy Gaining Ground, But Traditional Energy Entrenched.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Goering) reports on global efforts to phase in clean energy despite “unexpected problems” such as “pension funds heavily invested in fossil fuels, upfront costs for clean power, political flip-flops in key nations, and the lobbying prowess of old energy companies.” Tomas Kåberger, executive chair of Japan’s Renewable Energy Institute, described corporate resistance in Europe where “incumbent power companies are fighting for survival using the political influence they have.” In Japan, “The country doesn’t want big power companies with big debts (owed) to pension funds to go down.”

ClimateWire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Irfan, Subscription Publication) reports similarly, highlighting how coal firms in Germany have remained strong even as renewables grow. “Germany industries demand cheap energy, and coal miners remain an important political constituency.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Pennsylvania Secretary Of Education Speaks On STEM.

The State College (PA) Centre Daily Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Milazzo) reports Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera spoke at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center while meeting with the state STEM committee and invested stakeholders. Rivera said the Centre County is the “epicenter” for STEM education, stating that “a place like Penn State is an ideal place to start.” A report from the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education found “Gov. Tom Wolf set a goal to increase the number of full-time students enrolled in STEM majors at state universities to 10,000 by 2020.” Furthermore, he plans to garner “$640 million in additional funding for schools to help better prepare students for college and career readiness in specific fields.” Rivera touted the future of state STEM programs, stating: “It’s really going to thrive the next generation of education. We like to say often that we’re preparing kids for careers that don’t yet exist … and this is really an opportunity for us to create a movement around innovation, around STEM education, (and) around this focus on preparedness for the next generation.”

US Supreme Court Declines Kansas Science Education Case.

Education Week Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/30, Walsh) reports the US Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a group of Kansas students and parents who oppose, on religious beliefs, the state’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards. In a lawsuit against Kansas Department of Education, the group, Citizens for Objective Public Education, claims the standards “address religious questions by removing a ‘theistic’ viewpoint and creating a ‘non-theistic worldview’ in science instruction in the public schools.” In 2014, a federal district court determined the group “lacked standing to bring the suit because the alleged injuries were abstract.” The Supreme Court requested Kansas “respond to COPE’s appeal, and the state stressed that curriculum decisions remain a matter for local school districts.”

Lawrence Hosts Student Robotics Competition.

The North Andover (MA) Eagle Tribune Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Megargee, Mattise) reports South Lawrence East Elementary School is hosting a robotics competition Dec. 3 that will include 32 elementary and middle school teams. The students have constructed and programmed Lego robots that will “compete on a table-top ‘field’ with a mission of animals helping each other.” The robotics program is sponsored by FIRST.

Peck School FIRST Lego League Team Competes In Qualifier.

Tap Into New Jersey Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (11/29, Morristown) reports Morristown Peck FIRST Lego League (FFL) team competed in the Qualifying Event at Mount Olive High School in Mt. Olive, NJ. Ten students used their three robots to compete against students from 11 other teams. Only 12 percent of Northern New Jersey’s 310 teams will advance to the regional competition. For their real-world problem, “Peck students chose the growing scarcity of Monarch butterflies.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

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