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The National Science Teachers Association Supports Business Partnerships for Schools

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Partnerships between the private sector and education have the ability to leverage a unique set of resources, talent, involvement, and know-how from each partner that can maximize collective efforts. In this two part series on school-business partnerships, we asked the same set of questions of Dr. David Evans, NSTA Executive Director and Blair Blackwell, Manager of Education and Corporate Programs at Chevron Corporation. Today's answers come from Dr. David Evans, offering the educator's perspective.  Tuesday we will post Blair Blackwell's answers, sharing the perspecitve from the business side.

Q: Why is it valuable to establish partnerships between the private sector and education?

A: A current national focus on skills and knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects has fueled demands for college and career and energized the private sector. They are, after all, the recipient of the students that graduate from the K-12 education system and they know firsthand the critical needs of their workforce. Their involvement in and support for K-12 education ensures that we work together to prepare students to enter a workforce that now requires significantly more technical skills and knowledge. The "private sector" is also the "real world." Partnerships foster engagement and engagement encourages relevance. The product of education can be capable, informed citizens, prepared to succeed in the real world, not just in school.

For many years NSTA has cultivated relationships with numerous businesses, corporations, and organizations resulting in an impressive number of programs and initiatives working to strengthen education in STEM subjects. What we've found is that partnerships between the private sector and education have the ability to leverage a unique set of resources, talent, involvement, and know-how from each partner that can maximize our collective efforts. For example, NSTA is guided by its mission to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all and brings to the table the expertise and knowledge in science teaching, along with the connectivity to teachers and classrooms nationwide. The private sector, such as Chevron, brings business know-how, financial and human resources, among others, and the desire to contribute to education in meaningful ways at the local, state, and national levels.

Q: What tips can you offer to schools that are interested in partnerships with the private sector?

A: We often get this question from teachers. We first suggest that schools look in their own backyard. Businesses and corporations many times prefer to support programs that involve and engage people in their own communities. Their ongoing engagement with their workforce, their families, and the communities in which they do business, many times can provide the foundation and structure to launch and support new programs. Second, seek out likeminded businesses or companies that share the mission or goals of your program. It's no surprise that most of NSTA's supporting partners operate in the STEM fields. The private sector is looking to support programs and efforts that match their business interests so finding a common mission will maximize the effectiveness of both partners.

Third, be flexible. Sometimes a business or company may not be able to support your effort in a way that you requested, say financially, but they may be able to contribute in other ways to leverage support through other existing programs. For example, local companies may be able to help spread the word about your effort, or even contribute human capital by involving their workforce. Teachers welcome the opportunity to bring scientists, engineers, and others from the STEM field into the classroom. Start by making an effort to understand the goals and needs of the businesses, not just for them to understand yours.

Q: Why are programs like the Chevron-supported NSTA Administrators Initiative important?

A: Programs like the NSTA Administrators Initiative are vital to support the new vision for K-12 science education. The release of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework for K-12 Science education on which is it based has brought about a sea change with a new way of teaching and learning that allows students to do and experience science in a deep, meaningful way. States and districts across the country are embracing the NGSS and working to integrate these best practices into classroom teaching. A significant amount of support and resources will be needed to make the vision of the standards come alive for all students and all stakeholders need to play an active role.

Administrators, whether a school principal or a district or instructional leader, need to know and understand the changes that need to be made in science instruction,  to understand what the new science teaching and learning will look like in the classroom and realize the teacher professional development, support, and resources needed to achieve this vision. We are thrilled that Chevron recognizes the importance of involving these key stakeholders and is supporting efforts to move science education forward toward the vision of the standards.

Q: What do you hope the future impact of this program will be?

A: In the short-term, we hope that this program will reach and engage administrators nationwide by providing them the knowledge and tools to understand the exciting changes that are occurring in science education and the work that will be needed to translate those changes into high quality science instruction. Administrators can pave the way for the success of STEM education in schools across the country by helping teachers get the support and resources they need, try new methods of teaching, and work together to incorporate the science and engineering practices that are central to the new standards.

In the long-term, we hope this program will be a catalyst to put science education on the front burner in schools and districts. For too long, science has been squeezed out of the school day to make time for other subjects. Administrators are key to moving it back to where we and technology-based companies like Chevron know it needs to be.

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