Policy & Funding

Obama Revs Up 'Educate to Innovate' Campaign

President Obama Wednesday announced the expansion of the "Educate to Innovate" campaign, an initiative aimed at enhancing and encouraging STEM education throughout the country in order to allow the Unitee States to remain as competitive in scientific and technological research and innovation in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, the President acknowledged that in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, the country has slipped a fair distance from the dominant position it once held in the world community. Addressing an assessment he cited ranking the United States 21st in the world in natural science and 25th in math, Obama said, "That's not acceptable."

Pointing to such factors as a widening gap between the number of qualified STEM teachers we need and the number we have, as well as the pay gap between educators in this country and in those countries he sees as our strongest competitors, the president announced an overriding education goal for his administration: "to move from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade."

In an effort to reach this goal, the administration had previously set forth the "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a diverse range of programs, projects, and initiatives, to be carried out through federal, state, and local governments, as well as through public-private partnerships that enlist the aid of major technology and educational products and services corporations, as well as several prominent nonprofits that share the goals of EtI.

The President's remarks Wednesday served to disseminate a list of the specific undertakings being launched under the auspices of EtI, the components and goals of each project or initiative, and the government agencies and private institutions and organizations participating in each.

President Obama began by citing those efforts already underway, including the portion of the American Reform and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA), better known as the federal stimulus package, earmarked for K-12 education reform and advancement. He singled out perhaps the most notable education-related program within ARRA, the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, an unprecedented challenge by the government to individual states to compete for increased federal education funding. Under the program, each state, along with its K-12 educational infrastructure, is charged with devising innovative programs in math and science education; with reforming existing bureaucratic methods and procedures in order to place better, more qualified teachers in public school classrooms and promote their continued interest in and dedication to teaching and innovation; and with supporting them in encouraging students' long-term interest in STEM education and career pursuits.

In addition to Race to the Top, the president noted the ARRA provision that funded the retention of 300,000 teaching jobs that would otherwise have been lost to state budget shortfalls. Apart from the stimulus, the Department of Education in 2009 set aside $43 million in grants for 28 Teacher Quality Partnership programs at colleges of education to improve the recruitment and preparation of teachers in high-need school districts, with an additional $100 million in grants to be awarded early in 2010.

Public-Private Partnerships and New Initiatives
Going beyond the previously established federal efforts, however, the President used the bulk of Wednesday's speech to introduce the public-private partnerships and related federal initiatives at the heart of the EtI campaign.

Intel Science and Math Teachers Initiative: Technology products manufacturer Intel has made a 10-year, $200 million commitment to advancing education in math and science. The company will offer special training for more than 100,000 teachers in these subjects, including an intensive 80-hour professional development math course for elementary school teachers and new Web-based instruction and collaboration tools, including targeted professional development, for science teachers of all grades.

Currently offered in only four states, as part of its expanded commitment the company will now offer the benefits of the initiative to teachers in all 50 states. "We feel strongly that the real magic to help young minds compete in an innovative society comes from the teachers," said Shelley Esque, vice president and legal and corporate affairs director of the Intel corporate affairs group.

The company has also renewed its commitment to the Intel Science Talent Search and the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, which together reach 600,000 American students per year.

Finally, the company supports "Inspired by Education," an online community featuring news, blogs, forums, media, and links for educators and those who understand the importance of (and are committed to the improvement of) education.

NMSI UTeach Program Expansion: Founded in 1997 at the University of Texas at Austin, the UTeach program is designed to foster collaboration between college-level natural science and teacher education programs in order to turn out highly qualified STEM educators and close the need gap for innovative and dedicated teachers in STEM-related subjects. To date, the original program at UT-Austin has produced close to 550 graduates, with 92 percent entering the teaching field, and 82 percent still committed to teaching after five years.

The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) has announced an expansion of the program to a total of 20 colleges and universities, with the goal of preparing more than 4,500 undergraduates in STEM subjects to be new math and science teachers by 2015, and 7,000 by 2018. If the participants in the program achieve its expected potential, they will ultimately improve the math and science education of more than 20 million students throughout their careers.

The NMSI expansion is funded through a partnership of government agencies and private interests, including the Texas Instruments Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization affiliated with Texas Instruments whose primary commitment is to improve STEM education.

"The more resources that can be directed toward proven, successful programs like UTeach, the farther we can advance STEM education," said Rich Templeton, CEO of Texas Instruments. "Teachers are where we can have the most impact, and the support [by] more corporations and foundations of NMSI and UTeach will accelerate deployment on a national level," he said.

The PBS Teachers Innovation Challenge: In collaboration with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), PBS and its affiliates will launch a multi-year initiative aimed at bringing teachers together to share best practices and inspire lasting innovations in education. The cornerstone of the initiative will be an annual event to recognize 50 teachers for their innovations in making education more engaging and inspiring and ultimately more effective. NSTA has committed to encouraging science teachers to participate in the Challenge in hopes of bringing their innovations in STEM education.

"The pipeline for our next generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians begins in the K-6 classroom. Quality elementary science lessons capture children's attention when they are most open, most curious, and most naturally disposed to asking questions about the world around them," said Patricia Shane, president of NSTA. "Young children who receive a strong foundation in science during their elementary school years do better in science in later grades. 

Shane also noted that many students also make fundamental career decisions by the time they get to middle school, which makes the ability of educators to engage students and drive their interest in a future in science and technology so critical.

PBS is launching the Teachers Innovation Challenge with this in mind, said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS. "We want to recognize that those dedicated, passionate teachers are the leaders driving educational change and helping students reach their full potential," she explained. "We believe the examples set by these teachers will provide a model for others to emulate."

Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Math and Science: A program offered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Wilson Teaching Fellowships in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio offer the opportunity for students in these states interested in teaching math and science to pursue masters degrees in education, following which they receive placement in teaching positions in difficult-to-staff middle and high school math and science programs.

With more than $40 million in funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, and the states of Indiana and Ohio, the Wilson Fellowships will train 700 math and science teachers over the next three years, ultimately impacting the STEM education of more than 87,000 students per year.

Public University Presidents' Commitment to STEM Training : The presidents of 75 major public universities signed and submitted a letter to President Obama in which they committed to training 10,000 new science and math teachers annually by 2015, fully a one-third increase over current levels under the Science and Mathematics Teacher Imperative.

Far from making an abstract commitment, these higher education leaders have laid out plans to assess programs with proven success records, create new models of teacher preparation, and work with states to address teacher shortages.

NASA's "Summer of Innovation" Enrichment Program: NASA and its history represent one of the country's foremost realizations of the potential of science and technology. Beginning with a pilot program this summer, the agency will use this status to make students aware of the very real opportunities that can grow from advanced STEM knowledge and to inspire them with the possibilities of technological innovation and space exploration.

With the help of middle school teachers nationwide, as well as its own scientists and engineers, NASA will launch multi-week math and science education programs designed to stimulate young minds and get them interested in STEM-related careers.

The agency said that, through a competitive process, it will select districts in up to seven states to pilot the program this summer, with an eye toward diversity and broadening participation by low income and minority students. Through "Summer of Innovation," NASA will infuse its content and products into existing summer education programs and enhance them with competitions and events, likely culminating in a high-profile national event presented in cooperation with other federal departments and agencies.

"This is an incredible opportunity for our administration to come together to address our nation's critical science, technology, engineering and math education needs," said NASA administrator and former astronaut Charles F. Bolden. Through the program, he said, NASA is calling on its people to marshal their unique talents and align with government institutions, nonprofit partners, universities and teachers in order to "expand the opportunity for more of our young people to aspire to and engage in the future prosperity of our nation."

Department of Education Teacher Initiatives: One thing President Obama said he learned from his recent trip to the Far East was how disparate the status of the teaching profession remains between the United States and other countries. The president of South Korea told him his nation's biggest education challenge isn't funding or school infrastructure problems, but rather that parents are too demanding. And the mayor of Shanghai, China, explained that recruiting quality teachers has never been a problem, because the teaching is revered on a level comparable to that of doctors, and the pay scales reflect that status. In short, the best and the brightest in many fields, but especially math and science, want to become teachers.

Perhaps in an effort to elevate the status of teaching in the United States, ED is investigating new methods of encouraging high-quality teaching and educational innovation. In addition to its allotment of funding to grants for teacher recruitment and training, the department is committing $200 million to assessing and implementing performance-pay models and other approaches to rewarding innovation and its resulting successes in high-need districts.

Emphasis on Teachers
The President concluded his remarks by noting the program's substantial emphasis on teachers and their critical role in the EtI initiatives and in achieving its goal of restoring the nation's prominence on the world stage in science and technology innovation.

"Every person in this room remembers a teacher or mentor that made a difference in their lives.  Every person in this room remembers a moment in which an educator showed them something about the world--or something about themselves--that changed their lives.  It could be a word of encouragement, a helping hand, a lesson that sparked a question, that ignited a passion, and ultimately may have propelled a career."

Finally, the President acknowledged the value of improving education and schools that transcends specific innovations or career opportunities. "It's about instilling in a young person a love of learning and a sense of possibility in their own lives, an understanding of the world around them that will serve them no matter what they do."