A major reversal in math and science requirements for high school graduation may be beginning across the country in response to the "scandalous" state of current math and science teaching, according to B. Frank Brown, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Secondary Schools for the State of Florida.
Speaking at a convocation held at the National Academy of Sciences this week, Brown said there "is a new momentum building among the states for increasing competence in science and mathematics. California and Florida, which led the trend to abandon graduation standards, are now leading in the other direction by proposing the enactment of new levels of excellence for graduation from high school."
California's governor is proposing that every student must have three years of math and two of science before getting a diploma. In Florida, a similar proposal would raise the requirements to four years of math and four years of science, Brown said.
Frank Press, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said there is similar movement in Texas, Georgia, Minnesota, Michigan, North Carolina and other states.
In summarizing the two-day convocation yesterday, Gerard Piel, publisher of the Scientific American, said that "a warm and solid consensus on the facts of this crisis was achieved"--that students are becoming scientific illiterates and there is a "scandalous" shortage of science and math teachers.
But the meeting produced much less of a consensus on the way to cope with the crisis, Piel said.
Though state and local governments have begun to react to the problem, a dispute that ran through the entire conference was the size of the federal role in solving it.
President Reagan started off the conference by sending over a statement which said the situation was bad enough to "compromise the nation's future ability to develop and . . . to compete in international marketplaces."
But administration officials at the meeting suggested the federal government should not be looked to for solutions. "We disagree with those who say that the federal government should be ultimately responsible for the problem," said Edwin Harper, White House domestic adviser.
The Reagan administration has cut science education funds from a proposed $112 million for 1980, to $15 million proposed for 1983 in the National Science Foundation. Harper said that industry must do more to help.
Others at the conference dismissed the idea. "It is unreal to think that business will contribute significantly to the solution of this problem," said Press.