President Obama Announces New Initiatives to Promote STEM Education


STEM fieldsPresident Obama this week announced five new initiatives to improve the participation of educators in the STEM fields. The initiatives, which bring together leading companies, universities, foundations, non-profit organizations and government agencies, will build upon those the president announced in November, when he launched an “Educate to Innovate” campaign to motivate students to excel in STEM subjects. Up to one million new teachers are needed for the nation’s elementary and secondary schools over the next five years and vacancies in math and science often are among the hardest to fill.

Major corporations and foundations, such as Xerox Corp., Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments Foundation, are already supporting the president’s STEM campaign. “For nearly a half century, Xerox has been enabling young people to pursue educations and careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp., said at the November launch of “Educate to Innovate.” “President Obama’s initiative is not only the right thing for the young people of our country, but essential to maintaining America’s leadership position in the global economy.”

Burns is the first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company. The president’s STEM initiatives are particularly important to African-Americans, who remain underrepresented in STEM fields. Addressing a forum in September on ensuring diversity in the STEM pipeline, David M. Bressoud, president of the Mathematical Association of America, noted that white males and non-U.S. residents account almost entirely for the increase in the number of engineering and math majors since the 1990s.

“Women, as well as African-, Hispanic-, and Native-Americans are decreasing as a share of these majors. If we want to build a talented American workforce for the future, we cannot afford to ignore these students,” Bressoud said.

The five public-private partnerships announced by the president on Jan. 6 aim to prepare more than 10,000 new math and science teachers over the next five years and support the professional development of more than 100,000 teachers currently in STEM fields. They represent a combined commitment of more than $250 million in financial and in-kind support, bringing total support for the entire “Educate to Innovate” campaign to just over half a million dollars. The new partnerships are:

Intel’s Science and Math Teachers Initiative. A 10-year, $200 million cash and in-kind campaign. Intel will provide training to more than 100,000 U.S. math and science teachers over the next three years, with elementary school teachers participating in an intensive 80-hour professional development math course and teachers receiving new Web-based instruction and collaboration tools, including targeted professional development for science teachers. This training currently is available to teachers in four states and will now be available to school districts in all 50 states at no cost to the teachers. Intel will also commit to its employees achieving 100,000 annual volunteer hours, with an emphasis on improving STEM education, and will maintain its support for Intel Science Search and the Intel Science Fair, which reach 600,000 students per year.

Expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative’s UTeach Program. To prepare more than 4,500 undergraduates in STEM subjects to be new math and science teachers by 2015, and 7,000 by 2018. The UTeach program enables science and math undergraduates to concurrently receive a teaching certificate. With investment in excess of $13.5 million by the partners, NMSI will expand to 20 university campuses from its current 14, with three additional campuses soon to follow. With funding from the Carnegie Corporation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, NMSI will also launch a teacher alumni network to increase the impact of the program.

Public university presidents’ commitment.
In a letter to President Obama, the presidents of more than 75 major public universities committed to collectively prepare 10,000 science and math teachers annually by 2015, up from the 7,500 teachers currently trained by universities that participate in the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative.

The PBS Innovative Educators Challenge. PBS and its 356 partner stations, in collaboration with the National Science Teachers Association, will sponsor an annual competition called the “Innovative Educators Challenge” to highlight 50 outstanding teachers each year. These teachers will be provided support to be leaders in their communities, as well as have their methods of instruction collected as part of a public media repository — the  Digital Learning Library — to create a platform for sharing of effective practice.

Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Math and Science. The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation will expand its program, which provides future math and science teachers with a master’s degree in education and places them in difficult-to-staff middle and high school. With the support of the Governors in each state and more than $40 million in funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the State of Indiana, the State of Ohio, and Ohio Foundations, this program will train 120 math and science teachers per year in Michigan and 700 over the next three years in Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.

President Obama also issued a challenge to the 200,000 scientists and engineers working for the federal government to engage in high-impact volunteering alongside STEM educators. As part of this challenge, NASA will organize a multi-year “Summer of Innovation” enrichment program in which NASA scientists and engineers will work with teachers and students on cutting-edge STEM learning opportunities, with an emphasis on broadening participation of underrepresented groups. The program will culminate in a national event, in partnership with other U.S. departments and agencies.