Education :: US Governors focus on STEM Education, Communicating Innovation

On the second day of the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, governors focused on the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in creating a competitive global economy.

STEM education is one of the central elements of NGA Chair Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Innovation America initiative. Today’s plenary session at the J.W. Marriott Hotel provided governors an opportunity to hear from national experts on STEM and ask questions that have emerged as they begin to develop their own STEM agendas. Dr. James H. Simons, founder of Math for America and president of Renaissance Technologies Corp., opened the session with a keynote address focused on the importance of improving student achievement in math.

Following his address, governors heard from a panel of education experts, each of whom represented a different aspect of STEM education. Dr. William H. Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, spoke about the role of international studies in STEM reform. Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, addressed the role of teacher preparation as part of a larger STEM capacity building reform. Dean Kamen, inventor, entrepreneur and advocate for science and technology, spoke about the role of innovation and education in the economy.

Noted communicator Frank Luntz closed the session with a presentation on effective ways to communicate the importance of innovation.

“The presentation by Dr. Simon and the panelists provided a variety of perspectives on the importance of developing a STEM policy agenda as a key component of making states more competitive,” said Gov. Napolitano. “Their personal experiences with science, technology, engineering and math education are excellent examples of how these skills contribute to economic success.”

“Governors are charged with determining how we can raise standards, strengthen the curriculum, improve teaching and motivate more students to pursue careers in science and technology,” said NGA Vice Chair Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “I am confident my colleagues and I all learned valuable lessons in communicating these aims and crafting action plans to achieve them.”

At the session, NGA also announced the availability of grants to engage in K-12 STEM education redesign that supports a state economy’s innovative capacity. The State Centers for STEM Excellence grant program is made possible with the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Intel Foundation.

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