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Obama Expands 'educate to Innovate' Campaign to Improve STEM Education

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student and President Obama

Credit: The White House

President Barack Obama announced at the White House Thursday (September 16) the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The program is part of Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign to raise American students to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade.

Change the Equation, a new 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is a response by the business community to the President's "call to action" at the National Academy of Sciences in spring 2009 for all Americans to join the cause of elevating STEM education as a national priority essential to meeting the economic challenges of this century.

"Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America's role as the world's engine of discovery and innovation," President Obama said. "I applaud Change the Equation for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America's leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math."

Within a year, Change the Equation will replicate successful privately-funded programs in 100 high-need schools and communities such as efforts to allow more students to engage in robotics competitions, improve professional development for math and science teachers, increase the number of students that take and pass rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) math and science courses, increase the number of teachers who enter the profession with a STEM undergraduate degree, and provide new opportunities to traditionally underrepresented students and underserved communities. Change the Equation will also create a state-by-state "scorecard" to highlight areas for state-level improvement, and help companies increase the impact of their own engagement in STEM education.

Change the Equation was founded by astronaut Sally Ride, former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, and Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York. With a membership of 100 CEOs, and funding of $5 million for its first year of operations, Change the Equation is in a unique position to meet its three goals of:

* Great teaching: Improving STEM teaching at all grade levels;
* Inspired Learners: Inspiring student appreciation and excitement for STEM, especially among women and under-represented minorities; and,
* A Committed Nation: Achieving a sustained commitment to improving STEM education.

The President also announced specific public-private partnerships involving Change the Equation members, non-profits and foundations. The announcements include increased opportunities for student engagement in science museums across the nation, improved teacher professional development in Newark, NJ, harnessing the power of electronic games for STEM education, and dramatically expanding the number of skilled volunteers participating in National Lab Day.

Also on Thursday, the President's Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST) released a Report to the President outlining ambitious new policy proposals for improving STEM education.

President Obama has identified three overarching priorities for STEM education, necessary for laying a new foundation for America's future prosperity: increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically in science, math, engineering and technology; improving the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.

Presidential leadership on the issue has already made a difference. The President made STEM a priority as part of the Administration's $4 billion Race to the Top competition. States were encouraged to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve achievement in STEM subjects, partner with local institutions, and broaden participation of women and underrepresented minorities. As a result, the winning states are taking decisive actions to embed improvements in STEM education into their overall educational reform plans, such as Maryland's decision to triple the number of STEM teachers, North Carolina's investment in 10 STEM "anchor schools" that will develop an exemplary curriculum, or Rhode Island's plan to support their school turnaround strategies with "STEM distinguished educators," and through partnerships with informal education providers and community groups to teach environmental science.

These efforts by Governors, State Superintendents, industry, foundations, and science and engineering professionals to work together demonstrates the power and potential of the of the "all hands on deck" approach that the President has called for. With the commitments made Thursday, the "Educate to Innovate" campaign has resulted in over $700 million in financial and in-kind support for STEM programs. The private sector is responding not just with financial support, but with commitments that take advantage of their core competencies and the skills and passion of their employees. The launch of Change the Equation will expand the number of companies that are involved in improving STEM education and increase the impact of their engagement.

Public Private Partnerships

"Youth Inspired Challenge" by a coalition of science centers and museums: 350 science centers and science museums, with leadership from the Association of Science-Technology Centers and local corporate and foundation support, are pledging to offer 2 million hours of science enrichment to at least 25,000 youth in all 50 states, with an emphasis on girls and underrepresented minorities.

Transforming Libraries and Museums into 21st Century Learning Labs: In partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will fund the creation of 30 new hands-on learning ("YOUMedia") centers across the country. These centers, based on the successful YOUMedia Center at the Chicago Public Library, will be become hubs for youth engagement, creativity and hands-on learning, advancing the President's goal of empowering young people to be "makers and creators of things, rather than consumers." MacArthur and IMLS will provide more than $4 million in planning grants over a three-year period, and will be joined by a number of partners such as the Knight, Pearson, Mozilla, and Grable Foundations, and the Chicago and New York Community Trusts.

National STEM Video Game Challenge: The Entertainment Software Association, Microsoft, and AMD in partnership with the American Library Association, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and E-Line Media, will launch two annual competitions—focused on both playing and designing games for STEM learning. The Youth Prize, with $50,000 in prize money, will be for student designers from 5th to 8th grade, and will target outreach and opportunities for students in high-poverty schools from underserved urban and rural communities. The Developer Prize will be open to anyone and focus on STEM games for early learners, pre-K to 4th grade, with special emphasis on developing technologies with the greatest potential for effectively reaching underserved communities. In addition, AMD will expand its "Changing the Game" initiative over next three years, reaching 20 regions and 10,000 children in hands-on game development.

Raytheon's New STEM Tool for State Policymakers: Raytheon will leverage its engineering workforce and unique expertise in modeling and simulation to expand its national "STEM Modeling Tool" to the state level, empowering policymakers to identify promising STEM education interventions to expand the STEM-ready workforce, based on the specific characteristics and assets of each state. In total, Raytheon has committed to investing $55 million in STEM programs over the next five years.

National Math Science Initiative's (NMSI) To Assist Military Families: In partnership with Lockheed Martin and Military Child Education Coalition, NMSI announced a new effort to expand access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes in STEM subjects to public high schools that serve a large number of military families. This initiative starts this fall with four schools serving Fort Campbell and Fort Hood. Additional corporate partners will provide support for an additional three schools in Fall 2011. NMSI's support program for AP classes will make it possible to offer college-level courses for children in military families that will travel with them if they are transferred because the AP curriculum is consistently uniform regardless of the district they may attend. The high-standard curriculum, which is reinforced with intensive teacher training by NMSI, will help children in military families build a future of college-readiness wherever duty calls.

Nature Publishing's "Bridge to Science" Program for Parents and Scientists: Nature Publishing, parent company of science publications such as Scientific American and Nature, will make a three year, $5.5 million commitment to a series of programs to build stronger connections between parents, students and scientist, including providing parents easy-to-do experiments, and creating an online platform for parents and children to become "citizen scientists." In addition, Nature and its affiliated journals will provide cost-free professional development for biology teachers interested in incorporating cutting-edge science, and recruit 1,000 scientist-readers to participate in classrooms through efforts such as National Lab Day.

New Efforts to Bring Passions of Scientists and Engineers into Classrooms: HP will be launching a major U.S.-wide employee volunteering initiative to improve STEM education. They will provide matching donations for volunteer hours, recruit scientist and engineer retirees, start a major collaboration with Donors Choose and National Lab Day, and engage HP business partners to also expand employee volunteering. They will also launch the HP Catalyst Initiative, a global network of education leaders in STEM dedicated to developing more effective learning experiences for students. In addition, the biotechnology industry, with leadership from the Biotechnology Institute, is announcing a "Scientists in the Classroom" Campaign to train and deploy scientists from companies in high-impact collaborations with teachers and students on laboratory projects in high schools. Eight founding biotechnology companies have already pledged over $4M to the effort. In partnership with efforts such as Citizen Schools and National Lab Day, the program will be launched in communities this fall in 10 states, reaching a run-rate of 1,000 life scientists assisting in schools over five years.

Multi-Year Investments in STEM Programs: ExxonMobil will commit to investing $120M in STEM education programs over three years, impacting thousands of teachers and students. This will include major investments in scaling programs with a track record of success, such as the UTeach and AP programs through its support of the National Math and Science Initiative. Merck will launch a five-year $19.5M investment to support science education in schools, and for the first-time, focus on the multi-year partnership with a large urban school district near Merck facilities. This will include a multi-year partnership with Newark Public Schools to co-design an intensive professional development program for both teachers and administrators, expanding every year with the goal of district-wide adoption.


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