Private Investment Fuels STEM Innovation

The Obama administration began 2011, both in the State of the Union and at the Department of Education, hoping to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB). Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated earlier this month that 82 percent of schools could miss NCLB academic targets this year and be labeled as “failing,” up from 37 percent in 2010.  Congressional staff that helped to author NCLB called these numbers into question, and while the specifics are unknown, republican lawmakers such as Rep. John Kline (R-Minn) agreed that “the current system is broken and in desperate need of repair.”

As our knowledge economy becomes more globalized, it is increasingly clear that a successful school system will prepare its students to thrive in the working world, and some business leaders have begun to invest in the education of their future employees.  Focusing specifically on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education as the wave of the future, HP established the Education Innovation Challenge Fund (EICF), giving public and non-profit educators in India the opportunity “to pursue novel approaches to STEM learning for the 21st century.”

As part of a related effort to align curricula with professional needs, many states are similarly providing a forum for educators and business leaders to make sure what is being taught in schools is applicable after graduation.  Rhode Island recently established a STEM Center to encourage “educator training and initiatives” in math and science fields. Large local companies Amgen, Raytheon and Verizon recently declared their support for the effort.

To facilitate more cooperation between the two sectors, a recent National Governors Association (NGA) meeting joined a memorandum of understanding between Innovate + Educate, a non-profit organization led by top industry across the country, and the Massachusetts government to join forces in the effort to revolutionize U.S. STEM education.  Innovate + Educate plans to be a “broker of industry investments across STEM education,” and has pledged an initial $50,000 to begin work with Massachusetts’ education system.

“We are urgently working to increase interest in and access to the valuable STEM fields to all of our students,” said Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville. “Enhancing partnerships between employers and educators will ensure our students are motivated and prepared for the rigors of our knowledge economy.”

Posted by: John Coit

Sources:, Rhode Island College, The Economic Times, The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Governor Patrick highlights education reform at the University Park Campus School, Institute for Student Success by Flickr user Office of Governor Patrick


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