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Race to Top Winners Include STEM in Agendas

As you've probably heard by now, Delaware and Tennessee were the only two states to win first-round grants in the federal Race to the Top Fund competition.

There's a lot of material to wade through in their applications outlining what they aim to do (235 pages for Delaware, 264 for Tennessee), but I'm going to focus here on STEM education, which is featured in both plans. Careful readers of this blog may recall that this was one of the criteria upon which applications would be judged. States could earn 15 of the 500 points for having an emphasis on education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

At the risk of sounding snarky, you'll perhaps notice a heavy dose of buzzwords and phrases in the Race to the Top applications: "groundbreaking," "partnership," "college-readiness," "cross-disciplinary," "cutting-edge approaches," "sustainable innovations," "rigorous academic curriculum," "student-focused support," and, well, you get the idea.

In any case, here's a taste of what Delaware has in mind on the STEM front.

"Over the next four years, Delaware plans to increase rigor in STEM coursework, promote college-readiness in the core areas of science and mathematics, and to further integrate technology to engage students," that state's application says. "In addition, Delaware will continue its strategy of promoting collaboration and innovation to increase access to, and quality of, STEM courses."

Among its specific strategies are creating a statewide "STEM Coordinating Council" and working with six to eight districts to provide interventions to enhance STEM success for "traditionally underrepresented" groups of students, such as women and minorities. The state also is planning to implement a STEM "residency program" in 2010-11 in partnership with the University of Delaware to attract nontraditional candidates to teach STEM subjects in high-need schools.

For its part, the Tennessee application says the state is launching a "groundbreaking" new partnership between the state department of education, the Battelle Memorial Institute, and local school systems to "establish a statewide network of programs and schools designed to promote and expand the teaching and learning of ... the STEM disciplines." The effort is modeled after similar Battelle efforts in other states, including Ohio, the application says. (Battelle co-manages the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.)

The state says it's pursuing a strategy that "produces and supports talented STEM educators; develops engaging, cross-disciplinary, and project-based curriculum linked to Tennessee's growing STEM industries; creates new school models that employ cutting-edge approaches to learning and pathways to STEM careers; and harnesses the power of multisector regional partners working with communities and schools to realize increased student achievement in STEM."

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