Comments to National Science Board

Edward J. Ray, President
Oregon State University
National Science Board Meeting
Thursday, February 8, 2007, 2:20-3:50pm
Reser Stadium, Valley End Zone

Thank you.

I understand you will shortly be considering a draft action plan prepared by your Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

At Michael Crosby's request, I will share information about three initiatives here that are having a very substantial impact on K-20 education, and the ability of students to move seamlessly through the educational system

The first is our innovative collaboration with Oregon's community colleges, the Degree Partnership Program.

This is a comprehensive form of dual enrollment we pioneered in 1998 with Linn-Benton Community College. Students submit one application for admission. They have one financial aid form. They are literally enrolled in both their community college and OSU simultaneously, thereby avoiding many of the problems of traditional transfer programs.

Partnership students can make use of our library resources, take advantage of our award-winning distance education program, and even attend athletic events and co-curricular activities here.

And they are assured every credit they take meets our requirements and will transfer seamlessly to OSU.

The Degree Partnership Program creates new opportunities for students, making it easier for them to pursue a college degree and reducing their educational cost and time to graduation.

As of last month, 16 of the 17 Oregon community colleges have signed agreements with OSU, with the last college agreement is anticipated after the appointment of a new president there. My goal is to assist the other 6 universities in the Oregon University System in developing similar partnerships with each of the community colleges.

This fall, we broke new ground by signing agreements with 2 of Hawaii's 7 community colleges. We enroll many students from Hawaii and the Pacific Rim, so this is a very meaningful step for us.

Several other states are interested in adopting our degree partnership program for their community colleges and universities.

Some 5,500 students have enrolled in the program since its inception, and more than 1,600 have graduated from Oregon State University already.

We all know that there are extraordinary people who come from ordinary circumstances who can change the world.

The Degree Partnership Program is a wonderful modern expression of OSU's historic commitment to these people.

  • Students who come to OSU through the DPP program graduate at a rate that is 10% higher than traditional transfer students.
  • They graduate with higher GPA's than regular transfer students.
  • In fact, they do as well as students who enroll here as freshmen.
  • And they have fewer college credits than traditional transfer students, so their education has been more focused and cost effective.

Of particular interest today is the preponderance of science majors among the DPP students

  • 568 students, over 10% of the entire cohort, enrolled in Pre-Engineering.
  • General Science, Exercise and Sports Science, and Biology also rank in the top five for DPP majors.

As a complement to this effort, OSU has long maintained one of the most highly regarded academic programs for community college teachers and administrators in the West, with innovative cohort programs leading to a Master's in Adult Education and a Doctorate focused on Community College Leadership.

Our second initiative is in teacher education.

As I am sure you know, in this next decade our country is going to need 2.2 million new teachers in K-12 schools and community education settings.

The greatest need, now and into the future, is for teachers in the STEM areas.

OSU's double degree program in the College of Education was a response.

The Double Degree enables students to earn two undergraduate degrees concurrently - one in their discipline and one in education.

This is a new pathway for the preparation of teachers and expands the pool of potential teachers. And it ensures their disciplinary depth.

The results are very encouraging. We started the program in 2003. In the last year alone, enrollment in the program nearly doubled, to 900 students.

Remarkably, the greatest growth is in the area of greatest need, teachers for the STEM subjects

Currently there are 100 double degree students in the College of Science, including:

  • 23 from mathematics,
  • 25 from general science,
  • 18 from biology, and
  • 5 from physics.

Last year, there were 18 Double Degree students from the College of Engineering. This year there are 49, including

  • 11 from computer science,
  • 10 each from mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering, and
  • 9 from civil engineering.

OSU engineering students consistently test at or near the top on the national engineering exam, and they shine in national competitions.

If you can graduate from the OSU College of Engineering, you are going to have an impact in a classroom!

We are even more encouraged by the following:

  • 7 of the 49 Double Degree students from engineering, over 14%, are African-American, Latino, or Native American.
  • This is more than triple the percentage in the College of Engineering itself, a statistic we anticipate these new teachers will help change.
  • 10 of the Engineering students are women, perhaps reflecting the fact we are in the top three or four engineering colleges nationally for the percentage of women engineering professors.

We also recently inaugurated a new mentoring program in elementary and secondary schools, focused on success and retention for new teachers.

As you know, the loss of teachers in the first several years of their careers is the other critical dropout rate in education, one that doesn't get nearly the attention it merits.

A third OSU program focused on K-20 education is our Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences program, called SMILE.

As you know, math and science have been identified as barriers to high school success and college enrollment for low income and minority students.

SMILE was started in 1988 with 80 students in four middle schools to address this. Today, there are 741 SMILE students in 35 elementary, middle, and high schools in Oregon.

There are also 65 classroom teachers who are SMILE partners, teachers who go above and beyond to make a difference for their students.

Since the program started, there have been 4,990 SMILE students, the majority of them American Indian and Hispanic, and almost all of them in poor, rural, educationally under-served communities.

SMILE is built upon sustained engagement with, and support of, classroom teachers and students.

SMILE operates year-round, providing hands-on science and math enrichment and college readiness activities both here, through summer programs, and in school classrooms.

I think the results speak forcefully:

  • For Native American and Latino students, the high school graduation rate in Oregon is 58%;
  • This compares to 75% for all students;
  • But students who participate in the SMILE program for at least 2 years graduate at an 84% rate;
  • And for students who participate for 4 years or more, it's 95%.

The pattern repeats itself at the next level, matriculation to college:

  • 63% of Oregon high school graduates enroll in college;
  • For SMILE high school graduates, the rate is 89%.

Interestingly, SMILE students appear to persist in STEM subjects.

At OSU, for instance, three-quarters of the 63 SMILE students who have graduated were in STEM fields, teaching, or health professions.

There are another 43 SMILE students enrolled at OSU right now.

So this is a program that has contributed greatly to Oregon and to Oregon State University.

In fact, just last week an NOAA External Review Board here to examine an on-campus SMILE sponsor, the Cooperative Institute for Oceanographic Satellite Studies, reported - and I quote - "the Cooperative Institute has an outstanding K-12 outreach program, built on partnering with broader OSU efforts in the Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences program," and went on to recommend that, "NOAA consider the K-12 program as a prototype for broad NOAA and national implementation."

Certainly SMILE dispels completely the notion that we are helpless as a society, or as educational institutions, to improve the attainments and aspirations of students, including minority and low income students, when it comes to science and math.

We are pursuing other initiatives too. I meet regularly with the superintendents of our three local school districts, our Dean of education, the president of our local community college and the deputy superintendent of our regional education service district to develop collaborative initiatives that will make the K-20 experience as seamless as possible. The opportunities are exciting and limitless.

In closing, I want to thank Dr. Beering and Dr. Bement of the National Science Board, and all the members of the Board. As I said this morning, we are grateful for your willingness to engage with OSU faculty and staff.

It has been a wonderful experience for us, one we will remember.

Thanks are also due Michael Crosby, Executive Director of the National Science Board. His guidance for this event has been invaluable.

I want also to acknowledge my OSU colleagues who have worked so hard to make this visit a success. Mark Abbott, John Cassady, Luanne Lawrence, and many students and faculty members, all went above and beyond. I am very grateful.

Finally, let me offer a special thanks to the wonderful behind-the-scenes staff without whom an event like this is impossible. You are all deeply appreciated.

I think it fair to say that everyone at OSU has an even greater appreciation now for the importance of the National Science Board and the work of its Board and staff.

I want you to know how much we have enjoyed your visit, how much we have learned from it, and how deeply we appreciate your advocacy and effort for science.

Thank you again.