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Loebsack Introduces Bill Promoting Statistical Literacy

1 November 2010 1,503 views No Comment

Members urged to ask reps to cosponsor bill

This column is written to inform ASA members about what the ASA is doing to promote the inclusion of statistics in policymaking and the funding of statistics research. To suggest science policy topics for the ASA to address, contact ASA Director of Science Policy Steve Pierson at pierson@amstat.org.

Pierson-color copySteve Pierson earned his PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota. He spent eight years in the physics department of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and later became head of government relations at the American Physical Society.

In late September, Rep. David Loebsack of Iowa introduced the Statistical Teaching, Aptitude, and Training Act of 2010 (STAT Act of 2010), a bill promoting K–12 statistics education. The bill, H.R. 6355, would make funding for professional development and statistical education programs available to local education agencies in states with statistical literacy plans approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

In preparing to introduce the bill, Loebsack emphasized the importance of making sure this and future generations of students have the statistical skills needed to cope in our increasingly data-centric world. “With the daily need to make decisions based on data and uncertainty—whether it be in financial and medical decisions or in one’s job—we need to make sure our students have the statistical training to prepare them for life in the 21st century,” Loebsack said. “I’m proud to introduce this bill to help our students be statistically literate and to give teachers the training and resources to prepare them.”

Rep. David Loebsack

Loebsack, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, was previously a political science professor at Cornell College, where he was a colleague of ASA member and statistics professor Ann Cannon. According to Cannon, who approached Loebsack about promoting statistical literacy, “[Loebsack] was known at Cornell College as being a good instructor who cared about how he interacted with the students both in and out of the classroom. Over the years, he and I have had many conversations about the role of statistics in many fields, including politics. He has a great respect for the field and how important it is in so many other fields.”

The bill, written with significant help from the ASA’s statistical education experts, has four parts. The Findings section cites the importance of statistical literacy to decisionmaking and dealing with uncertainty, its “value added” to math and science education, and its benefits for a more competitive and better-prepared work force and more effective citizenship.

  • Chapter A specifies the requirements for a state statistical literacy plan and a state statistical literacy advisory panel.
  • Chapter B states the rules for how an “eligible partnership”—a local educational agency (LEA) partnering with another LEA; a teacher training department or professional development center of an institution of higher education; or a federal, state, or regional statistical agency—can apply for a professional development grant.
  • Chapter C outlines guidance for grants to develop and implement state statistics curriculum frameworks or policy approaches to advancing statistics education, disseminating effective statistics education programs, or studying statistics education assessment.
  • Chapter D defines statistical literacy and authorizes funding for the bill.

The bill is part of the ASA’s efforts to promote statistical literacy nationally. ASA members will recall that statistical literacy was a focus of the 2009 congressional visits, when 60 ASA members visited 120 congressional offices. The ultimate congressional objective is for statistical literacy to be advanced in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization (also known as No Child Left Behind).

Urge Your Representative to Cosponsor H.R. 6355
The Statistical Teaching, Aptitude, and Training (STAT) Act of 2010 presents a wonderful opportunity for ASA members to educate their U.S. representatives about statistical literacy and to gather support for improving K–12 statistics education. Please join your fellow ASA members in the grassroots campaign to gather cosponsors for this bill by signing up on the ASA’s website. Already, 50 ASA members and chapters have signed up, and a few dozen have met with their U.S. representatives or congressional staff. The ASA will provide guidance for all aspects of the meetings, including how to request meetings, how to conduct an effective meeting, and how to make an effective case for statistical literacy. The ASA also will provide material to use in your meetings.

Acknowledging Congress’s recognition of the importance and its promotion of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, the ASA has emphasized the need to make sure statistics is explicitly included in existing and proposed STEM programs. To avoid the perception that teaching statistics supplants teaching other STEM topics, the ASA has noted the existence of statistics in many textbooks and curricula and emphasized the need to make sure teachers have the training and support to teach statistics well. The ASA also has highlighted the fact that statistics education enhances science and math education through its teaching of the scientific process and critical analysis and its extensive use of mathematics.

With the inclusion of statistics in the Common Core State Standards initiative, teachers prepared to teach statistics will be all the more important. This bill helps highlight this need.

Given the limited time left in this Congress’s legislative schedule, this bill—and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization—would be taken up in the next Congress, which would require reintroduction next year. Nevertheless, it is important to promote this bill over the next few months to show it has strong support and to start the long process of educating Congress about statistical literacy.

With Loebsack’s introduction of the STAT Act, it’s now up to ASA members to promote the bill. Please join the ASA statistical literacy campaign by signing up on the ASA website.

Science Policy Actions

The ASA signed a letter in support of the FY11 budget request for the U.S. Census Bureau and American Community Survey.

The ASA signed a letter in support of the FY11 budget request for the National Science Foundation.

The ASA and ASA president signed letters to the National Academies’ Board on Science Education Committee on the New Science Education Standards Framework.

The ASA nominated a member to the National Assessment Governing Board.

The ASA signed a letter urging Senate passage of the America COMPETES Act.

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