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The Astronomer

Monday, January 12, 2009 12:00 AM

Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan goes before a Senate committee on Tuesday for a confirmation hearing. To help him set priorities, Post reporter Valerie Strauss asked folks in the education world to provide their best advice on key issues. Here is a response from Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer, Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.

In my view, the incoming secretary of education needs to focus on improving elementary and middle school student performance, particularly in math and science.

How?

--By eliminating the suffocating "No Child Left Behind" program so that teachers can encourage students in the pursuit of education for the sake of knowledge and lifelong learning rather than for the purpose of passing a test.

--By improving, through better teacher training, science teachers' ability to teach science via observation and experimentation.

--By giving students a broader exposure to the world of science and technology through field trips to places such as factories and laboratories where students can see people doing science.

--By ensuring the funding teachers need to demonstrate to students that science is exciting, alive, and significantly touches the lives of every individual on this planet in ways that no other discipline does.

--By broad dissemination of the reality that our future, as a nation, is in the hands of the students in our schools and that our best investment for the future is to educate our students as if our future depended on their abilities as knowledgeable, well-trained citizens, and that responsibility is in the hands of our teachers who should be paid well enough to attract the best and brightest to this profession.

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