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Rob  Feinberg
By Rob Feinberg April 18, 2012

Lots of programs from Race to the Top

In his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama promised to "improve science and math education in K through 12, to prepare more students for these studies in college” and "work to increase our number of science and engineering graduates and encourage undergraduates studying math and science to pursue graduate studies.”

In the promise, Obama added that he wanted to expand diversity in math and science by increasing the number of women and minorities studying those subjects.

As we mentioned in our last update, in the 2009 stimulus bill, the administration created the Race to the Top Fund, which awarded $4.35 billion in competitive grants to states working to increase innovation in education.

The Department of Education"s explanation of the grant criteria specifically mentions that one of the fund"s top priorities is to place an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math and to address "the needs of underrepresented groups and of women and girls in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

That falls in line with what President Obama promised in his campaign, and since 2009, the administration has awarded over $4 billion to 16 states to meet those priorities.

However, we still wanted to find out exactly how these states were pushing to implement science and math education into their curriculums, so we took a look at Tennessee, which was one of the first two states to receive a Race to the Top grant.

As it turns out, the state has made serious progress towards several goals that help to fulfill the president"s promise.

Over the past two school years, Tennessee put a large portion of the $500 million in grants that it received from the administration towards the creation of the Tennessee STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Innovation Network, a system of public-private partnerships between the Tennessee Department of Education and the Battelle Memorial Institute, a worldwide research and development organization.

Sky Gallegos, director of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, told us that that one of the network"s major initiatives is the creation of "innovation hubs” - partnerships across the state between businesses and schools, such as the L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville, which are designed to increase science and math resources at an educational level.

"There is no doubt this grant has attracted new students to science, technology, math and engineering,” Gallegos said. "The enthusiasm in each of the districts where we are funding a school is tremendous. The simple fact that we have over 300 students enrolled in the new Knoxville STEM school in its first year speaks volumes about the interest of students in math and science. ”

Other similar initiatives, albeit in different forms, were also funded in 15 other states with Race to the Top Funds.

Jodi Peterson, spokesperson for the National Science Teachers Association, said that while she still hopes to see more funding for these types of projects from Congress, "STEM education is a high priority for the Administration and is very important to President Obama.”

President Obama and his administration have addressed science and math education in several ways since taking office in 2009, and through the Race to the Top Fund and other initiatives, the administration has given billions towards reforming STEM education. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson October 7, 2009

Obama's "Race to the Top" grants would boost science, math

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to improve science and mathematics education, to enable more students to pursue graduate studies in these fields and to bolster diversity within scientific and technological fields. The economic stimulus bill passed in early 2009 includes one major program that could advance these goals.

The Race to the Top Fund is poised to provide $4.35 billion in competitive grants for education. Among other things, these grants are designed to encourage educational innovation, improve student achievement and high school graduation rates, and prepare students more effectively for college and careers. The program isn't up and running yet, but the first applications could be accepted as early as late 2009, according to the Education Department.

A draft proposal says that the program would give preferences to applications that

— "offer a rigorous course of study in mathematics, sciences, technology, and engineering;"

— "cooperate with industry experts, museums, universities, research centers, or other ... community partners to prepare and assist teachers in integrating [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] content across grades and disciplines, in promoting effective and relevant instruction, and in offering applied learning opportunities for students;"

— "and prepare more students for advanced study and careers in the sciences ... including addressing the needs of underrepresented groups and of women and girls in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics."
 
While the Race to the Top Fund isn't operational yet, it does seem to be closely attuned to the goals outlined in Obama's promise. We consider this promise to be In the Works.

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