Virginia approves math education goals to reduce ethnic disparities

The Virginia Board of Education recently approved new annual goals for math education in the state . These goals are set in an effort to reduce the disparities in state math scores seen between   non-Hispanic white children, non-Hispanic black children, and Hispanic children in the Virginia school districts.

Top educators, however, feel parents should view the state’s plan in a different light, not as regulations but rather as progress metrics, reported the Huffington Post.

The metrics are a part of a waiver application to the federal government regarding the No Child Left Behind law.

Under the new math education plan, all the state’s public schools will be held to the same criteria. Within the next six years, all school divisions in the state must have a minimum of 73 percent in state math scores.

Currently in Virginia, Asian students are above that goal, non-Hispanic whites are within five points, non-Hispanic black students are at 45 percent average and Hispanic students are at 52 percent. Students with disabilities are around 35 percent.

The new math education goals aim to close this gap and bring all students to the same level of math proficiency.

National math education scores

Nationally, the Child Trend Data Bank reports Asian/Pacific Islander students have the highest math ratings, scoring an average of 303 points, compared to 293 points for non-Hispanic whites, 270 points for Hispanics, and 262 points for non-Hispanic blacks.

New Virginia math education metrics are playing a part in gaining a waiver from the federal government’s No Child Left Behind law. (Shutterstock photo)

“The importance of mathematics extends beyond the academic domain,” explained the Data Bank. “Young people who transition to adulthood with limited mathematics skills are likely to find it difficult to function in society. Basic arithmetic skills are required for everyday computations, and sometimes for job applications.”

The new Virginia math education metrics are the latest effort in what seems to be a national trend to address and remedy ethnic and racial disparities in education. Previously, Florida made headlines with new education benchmarks which lowered performance standards for students based on race and ethnicity. The new benchmarks have met with mixed reviews, especially since recent reports indicate minority students in that state have the highest SAT scores.

The move to remedy education disparities across the nation is summed up in a statement from Virginia State Board of Education member Billy K. Cannaday Jr., who told the Huffington Post, “First, we acknowledge there is a gap and (say) it’s intolerable. Second, we chart a path to closing it. Our effort is not just to comply; it’s to do right things by all children.”


Women of Color in Technology Honors 18 Northrop Grumman Employees

Eighteen Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) employees received awards for their achievements at the 17th annual Women of Color in Technology (WoCT) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Conference in Dallas. The conference recognizes outstanding women in the STEM fields and provides opportunities for professional development, networking and recruiting.

 Lucy Paliwoda, a director of engineering in Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector, received special recognition from WoCT for her leadership in the STEM fields and outstanding career accomplishments. Paliwoda was cited for her commitment to helping others and her distinguished service in advancing science and technology.

Paliwoda's technical leadership and interpersonal skills have been instrumental in her appointment to leadership positions within Northrop Grumman. Currently, she is director of engineering for several company campuses in California and Colorado. Paliwoda is responsible for technical and process excellence for hardware engineering, software engineering, test engineering and flight operations. Her primary program areas support the payload and mission processing programs for various satellite programs. Paliwoda earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Santa Clara University.

Helen Chuang received WoCT's Technical Innovation, Government award. Chuang is a systems engineer in Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems sector, working on the analysis of radiometric data from the Space-Based Infrared Systems. Prior to joining Northrop Grumman, Chuang pursued a successful career in biomedicine where she published a host of technical papers, presented at numerous professional conferences, and participated in two patents and four grant proposals.

Chuang is a strong proponent for the incubation of STEM interest among students, serving as a mentor at both the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),and as a director for MIT's nationwide engineering outreach program. Chuang earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Caltech and a doctorate in chemical engineering from MIT with a minor in finance and management.

Receiving WoCT Technology All-Star Awards were Northrop Grumman employees Anita Polvani, Angela Smith, Jacqueline Terry and Michelle Zetina.

Northrop Grumman employees honored with the WoCT's Technology Rising Stars award were Alison Brereton, Latarsha Bryant, Candice Burch, Antoinette Flournoy, Toffee Guico, Helen King, Heidi Moa, Jennifer Morgeson, Mei Nickles, Danielle Rodriguez, Sheetal Sonis and Valerie-Anne Virtudazo.



Lynchburg STEM Academy Approved by Board of Education

A new learning opportunity for high schoolers is coming to the Lynchburg area. The Lynchburg Regional Governor's STEM Academy has been approved by the Department of Education.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The school will open its doors next fall, and will be open to high school juniors and seniors seeking careers in technology. One of the organizations pushing for the new school is the Region 2000 Technology Council.

"They're going to have a new learning opportunity they haven't had before. It's going to give them access to relationships with local business and industry. So more of an applied learning environment," said Jonathan Whitt, Executive Director of Region 2000 Technology Council.

This will be the 16th STEM school in Virginia, and is part of Governor McDonnell's effort to double the number of academies in the Commonwealth by the end of his administration.




Fluvanna County High School students learn practical skills for careers in science, technology

The statistics are sobering. Fifty percent of U.S. college graduates under age 25 are jobless or underemployed, according to a report released by Drexel University and the Economic Policy Institute in April. Total student loan debt has topped one trillion dollars. In Virginia, a college graduate owes on average over $23,000 in student loans.

Not all the economic forecasts are bad, however. There is a silver lining hidden behind those figures for university graduates who receive degrees in high-tech and health-related fields. While jobs in the arts and humanities continue to decline, the demand for engineers, computer scientists, and nurses is on the upswing.

Spurred by new government initiatives and public-private partnerships, high schools across the Commonwealth are placing more emphasis on developing curriculum that will prepare students for careers in the high-demand fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

“We want to give students a foundation in math and science so they can apply what they have learned here on the college level and go on to have successful careers,” said Brenda Gilliam, director of secondary instruction at Fluvanna County High School.

Fluvanna is already a jump ahead of some school divisions in the state. In 2006, the high school began offering a pre-engineering/engineering technology curriculum through the nationally-acclaimed program called “Project Lead the Way.” Students who complete the coursework can take an examination for dual enrollment credit with participating colleges across the United States.

Joe Mayes teaches the engineering classes at the high school and believes his exploratory classes give students insight into the opportunities available in the field. Students learn design skills using 3-D modeling software, and their class projects include building robots, rockets and hydrogen fuel cells.

Junior William Carothers plans on taking the aerospace class available at the high school in his senior year. “I’d like to become an aerospace engineer. I am interested in space exploration,” he said. Carothers hopes to attend the Queen Mary University of London and earn a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

Senior Frank Crivaro plans to enter Piedmont Virginia Community College’s engineering associate of science transfer program after high school. He will continue his education at a Virginia university. “I’m interested in two branches of engineering,” said Crivaro, “I’d like to be either a sonic engineer or a mechanical engineer.”

Practical training is also available for those interested in pursuing jobs in the ever-growing health care industry.  The two-year nurse aide program prepares students to take the state licensing examination to become certified nursing assistants. For sports and exercise fans, there are courses offered at the high school to introduce students to careers in physical training and the health sciences.

“I taught the nursing class in Greene County and then left teaching for eight years,” said Karen Grove, teacher of the Nurse Aide classes in Fluvanna. “I had several opportunities to see students that I had taught working in the medical field when I took family members to receive medical care. It is gratifying to see people using the knowledge they learned in high school to contribute to the community and provide for their families. I am teaching these classes again because want to see that continue in Fluvanna.”

The classes teach students about many aspects of heath care.

“I want to be a doctor and this class will help me prepare for my future.” said Cierra Anderson, a junior. “I chose this class because it provides an opportunity to learn about the field I am interested in.”

Gilliam said Fluvanna is also assessing the possibility of becoming a STEM site. More than a dozen STEM academies are currently operating in Virginia, offering curriculum that augments traditional math and science classes with hands-on experiences and projects. Each site functions through partnerships with colleges and local business and industry.

Tenaska Virginia Generating Station is an example of an area company that has invested in education and reaped the benefits of a highly-skilled workforce. Employees of the Scottsville power plant collaborated with Fluvanna’s high school robotics team in the 2008 Virginia Tech Challenge. The company has also provided $40,000 in college scholarships to 54 students from Fluvanna and Buckingham.

Dr. Robert Mayfield is the plant manager and a personal crusader for more job relevant education across the Commonwealth. He serves as chairman of the Virginia Department of Education Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee, which endorses STEM academies in the state.

“Today’s millennial kids are multi-taskers. They are fascinated by technology and they want to know how things work. It can be hard to keep their interest because they want to know the practicality of what they learn,” explained Mayfield.

“That’s what is so great about STEM programs. High school students are using what they learn in the everyday world,” he said. “In math classes, they aren’t just reading from a textbook or looking at a PowerPoint presentation. What they learn has direct application to jobs and careers.”

Having an educated, skilled workforce available is one of the major criteria companies evaluate when they consider moving into a community, said Mayfield. “Yes, water and other concerns are important factors, but if we want economic development in Fluvanna, we need to get our students better prepared for the workforce. They have to receive more than a good education, they need the skill sets that employers are looking for,” he said.

For the past three years, Tenaska has offered a summer internship program to college freshmen and sophomore engineering students. Mayfield said the company received about ten applications last year. Most of the applicants were from Fluvanna and Louisa counties.

Kaela Mattson worked as an intern with Tenaska during the past two summers and plans to graduate from the University of Virginia next May with a degree in civil and environmental engineering.

The Fluvanna County High School graduate said the pre-engineering courses she took increased her exposure to important facets of the profession, including computer drafting and basic programming. Her internship with Tenaska deepened the well of learning experiences far beyond the college classroom as she participated in management and design meetings and assisted in analyzing data for company projects.

“Internships allow you to sample a wide variety of industries and do not need to be strictly in the field that you go to school for,” advised Mattson. “If you do your job well, you have a solid base for references when you apply for a job or graduate education. If not, then it was just another learning experience that does not necessarily impact the rest of your career.”

Dr. Mayfield expects Tenaska to receive even more applications for next summer through Governor McDonnell’s new Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program. The program connects college and university students who are majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math with Virginia companies who offer paid internships.

Students and businesses access a no-cost, centralized, online application system. This provides students with the ability to search and apply for summer internship opportunities, and it gives Virginia employers a large pool of qualified students to choose from. Students complete one comprehensive application that will be posted for review by interested companies across the state.

The program is open to full-time undergraduate students taking at least 12 credit hours per semester at an accredited Virginia university, college, or community college or an accredited out-of-state university or college. Students must be at least 18 years old and majoring in STEM disciplines.

To qualify, students must have completed at least 30 or more post-secondary education credits before starting the summer 2013 internship and must be at least a rising sophomore. Seniors graduating at the end of the 2013 spring semester are also eligible to participate.

Virginia companies are encouraged to register and list internship descriptions before Oct. 31 at the Commonwealth STEM industry internship program website: The application process will open to students on Nov. 1.

The deadline for student applications is Jan. 31, 2013.  Participating businesses can begin accessing the application database Feb. 11, 2013.



The Center for Excellence in Education Launches Education Blog

McLean, VA, October 20, 2012 - The Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) proudly announces the launch of a new blog on October 22, 2012 at 11 AM dedicated to the discussion of issues critical to U.S. and international education and workforce development. CEE’s blog will focus on the need to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education for America’s future leaders while championing an interdisciplinary liberal arts focus for K-12 and university students.

To inaugurate the blog, CEE Board Member and national expert on financial aid, Mark Kantrowitz will field questions about college affordability and share his thoughts on:

· Finding a College with a Good Financial Fit

· How to Increase your Chances of Winning a Scholarship

Mark Kantrowitz is publisher of and websites and author of the bestseller Secrets to Winning a Scholarship. He is President of MK Consulting Inc., a consulting firm focused on computer science, artificial intelligence, and statistical and policy analysis.

Mark is on the editorial board of the Journal of Student Financial Aid, the editorial board of the Council on Law in Higher Education and the editorial advisory board of Bottom Line/Personal (a Boardroom, Inc. publication). He is also an alumnus of CEE’s Research Science Institute program.

CEE is committed to a vibrant discussion on the blog forum and hopes to build a following of interested parties through regular updates and notable guest presenters.

In addition to college affordability, commentary on the CEE blog will analyze how high-quality STEM education policy in the global community helps to address critical issues concerning healthcare, the environment, national security, energy, and agriculture.



UVa’s massive open online courses see high enrollment

About 18,000 students had registered for professor Philip Zelikow’s Coursera offering in history as of last week; there will be only 120 students in his course on campus.

Tens of thousands of students have registered for new free online courses offered by the University of Virginia, though the figures could fall quickly when the teaching starts.

The university is offering six classes, with enrollments that as of last week ranged from less than 10,000 to more than 35,000. The classes, which aren’t for university credit, are called MOOCs—massive open online courses. UVa is offering them by working with a company called Coursera, recently launched by Stanford University professors. The California company lists more than 1.6 million students on its website.

James L. Hiton, UVa’s vice president and chief information officer, said MOOCs could redefine “normal” for college courses. He compared giving a lecture to many students to being a fast telegraph operator. In his analogy, online education is a telephone ringing in the corner of the telegraph office.

“Actually, MOOCs may redefine normal—a residential, face-to-face class,” he said.

Hilton said UVa’s large enrollment for the online classes likely represent the hunger for MOOCs in general, and particularly for those from a respected university. But professors warned the numbers shouldn’t be taken without caveat.

 “People love to count and rank things, and I’m worried at the amount of attention being paid to enrollment figures in the Coursera MOOCs,” physics professor Louis A. Bloomfield wrote in an eMail. Bloomfield is offering one of UVa’s Coursera courses.

Student retention is strongest for classes that are the least demanding, he said.

“That observation threatens to pit commercial interests against educational interests,” Bloomfield wrote. “Teaching a MOOC as a serious UVa college course will inevitably reduce the enrollment of that course, and probably by a significant fraction.”

He is undaunted.

“I have no intention of diminishing my course just to boost or maintain its enrollment,” Bloomfield said. “Instead, I’ll try to produce such compelling content that students will think twice before dropping out.”

Because students won’t get credit, the classes won’t be exactly like typical UVa courses, officials said.

 “My feeling is that a lot of learning that students do on grounds occurs in their own work,” said UVa philosophy professor Mitchell Green.

Grading for his Coursera class won’t go far beyond assessing whether students completed assignments, he said.

“I think it’s an open question how many of the students [who] enroll … are going to be sufficiently self-motivated to answer these questions in a way that shows real engagement,” he said.

UVa’s experimental partnership with Coursera has drawn increased attention because of the role the debate about online learning played in last summer’s push to oust university President Teresa A. Sullivan.

Sullivan hadn’t yet learned about the school’s negotiations with Coursera when she resigned in early June, officials said. Darden School of Business officials met with Coursera on June 7, and the dean of arts and sciences on June 8 directed her staff to get in touch with Coursera and university administration officials.

That afternoon, Sullivan went to the meeting with Rector Helen Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kingston, where she was asked her to step down. Sullivan was apprised of the Coursera talks after her return to office in late June.

She has consistently promoted the Coursera venture as an experiment aimed at improving university teaching.

Professors now are in the process of working up the courses they’ll be offering in the next semester.

“I think we’re sort of turning the corner from this as an adventure somewhere off in the distant future to, ‘Oh my gosh, we actually have to start building these courses,’” Bloomfield said.

Professors still are trying to work out the legalities and logistics of assigning readings for Coursera courses, Green said.

Another question professors face, Green said, is how to divide the huge numbers of students signing up for their courses into small enough groups. Should it be by geography? Age? Should professors create categories and let the students decide which to join?

About 18,000 students had registered for professor Philip Zelikow’s Coursera offering in history as of last week. There will be 120 students in his course on Grounds, but they won’t all meet for lecture.

Instead, they’ll meet in two sets of 60 for a tutorial with the professor and then in groups of 20 for a historical research lab-type exercise with graduate assistants. Plus, students will be doing the Coursera work.

Professor Michael J. Lenox was already getting eMails for a course that had been listed for a week, so he began wondering about how to manage communicating and interacting with tens of thousands of students once the class is up and running.

 “Ultimately, to me, the real interesting question is how can this technology benefit the students currently enrolled in the university,” Lenox said. “That, I think, is really the exciting value proposition.”

Bloomfield said he’s excited about the opportunities opened up by modern media, such as head-mounted video cameras. He won’t just talk about a merry-go-round, he said. He’ll ride it.

“My attitude is that, in shifting from the live classroom to the MOOCs, I’m going to give up the conversation I know and love from the classroom, but I’m going to get something in exchange for it,” Bloomfield said.

Still, some demonstrations work better in person or with the student performing them, he said.

“It’s not magic. It’s really how the world works,” he said. “There is value in the live experience.”



Choosing a STEM career: Army Corps of Engineers offers one-stop job opportunities

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Norfolk District brought out their best when they were invited to a career conference.


There was the doodler and reluctant biologist. The nature lover. The video-gamer. The guy who likes explosions. The fourth in a family of engineers.


It was Norfolk District’s dream STEM team: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Experts specifically chosen to draw young minds to STEM careers in the military.


The team – Lt. Col. Robert Haupt, Kristen Donofrio, Capt. Antonio Pazos, Nicole Woodward and Josh Williams – led one of 48 sessions at Corporate Landing Middle School’s Second Annual STEM Career Conference, Sept. 28, where more than 800 sixth- and seventh-grade students experienced STEM projects, concepts, activities and information.


Haupt, an Army engineer and Norfolk District’s deputy commander, led the 40-minute session with a brief overview of the mission of Norfolk District as classes of about 20 students rotated throughout the day.


Each teammate took turns telling how they chose a STEM career. After joining the Army and becoming an engineer, Haupt soon learned that he really liked blowing things up. Woodward loved bugs and exploring nature. Williams was winged on video games. Pazos grew up under the nourishment of an engineer dad and two older engineer brothers. Donofrio hated science in grade school, but later fell in love with biology and chemistry.


Haupt began each session by breaking the ice with the students.


“So, you guys came here to learn underwater basket weaving, right? You came here to do push-ups?” Haupt asked. “No,” replied the students, laughing enthusiastically. After introducing his STEM teammates, Haupt shared how the Army taught him how to build bridges and roads, airfields, buildings, and utilities like electrical systems and water sewage facilities.


“The fun thing I was taught was how to blow things up,” Haupt said. “But, before I could blow up old buildings or debris on the road, I first had to make sure it was safe.” Haupt used this illustration to engage the students on how science and math plays an important role when working with explosives.


“The Army Corps of Engineers performs a vital mission for our nation in peace and war by strengthening our nation’s security; building a strong economy so that businesses can do what they do, especially on the waterways; and reducing the risk of property damage and injury to people from natural disasters,” Haupt said.


Woodward, a biologist with the Norfolk District, shared with the students her love of nature and how as a little kid she played outside all the time, hiking in the woods, taking water samples out of ditches with bugs crawling all around. “So when I went to college, I knew I wanted to be in the science field,” Woodward said.


She started out in biology, but actually wanted to be a doctor.


“Once I started taking classes and had a couple of internships, I started to see what I liked a little more and eventually ended up working for the Army Corps of Engineers,” Woodward said.


Woodward works in the district’s regulatory branch and explained to the students how she and her colleagues regulate impacts to waters and wetlands throughout the country.


“So whenever someone wants to build within a wetland, they have to first come through us for a permit,” Woodward said.


She showed the students examples of various projects requiring regulatory permits: shoreline protection, piers, dredging operations, and explained how these projects impact water quality, and why the Corps regulates them.


Williams, an intern in the district’s operations branch, shared with the students the civil engineering, or technology, component of the Corps. He works with AutoCAD: an engineering mapping computer software and industry leader in 2D and 3D design, drafting, modeling and architectural drawing.


“Who likes video games?” he asked the students.


In unison, every hand raised.


“AutoCAD is like a big video game. You get information from other people and put it all together and build this map or a set of design plans, which you can see examples of posted on the blackboard here,” Williams said. “It’s a really fun system, but you’ve got to be tech-savvy. So you need to have a good background in computers.”


Williams told the students to prepare for his career he attended college at an ITT Technical Institute to learn drafting and design.


“Actually, as an intern at the Corps, I’m a student just like you,” Williams said. “I work throughout the day, and at night I attend Tidewater Community College, working toward a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. I really enjoy my internship here; I’ve got a lot of great mentors here and the Corps supports me 100 percent.”


Pazos is a civil engineer in the district’s engineering and construction branch. He told the students that his dad is an engineer along with his two older brothers.


“Growing up I always liked puzzles. My dad and brothers told me I always wanted to know how things worked. I would take things apart and try to put them back together…they told me I probably wanted to be an engineer,” Pazos said. “In high school I started taking courses that would lead me to a career in engineering. I applied and was accepted in Virginia Tech’s engineering program. I then became interested in the school’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. So I became and Army officer as well as a civil engineer.”


Pazos currently works as a project engineer at Langley Air Force Base and supports the renovation of the base’s hospital.


“I deal with the project’s contractor and customer, the hospital leadership. We are part of the team that ensures the contractor is doing what we are paying him to do. We’re using taxpayer’s money and it’s important that we get it right,” Pazos said.


Pazos said that he uses some of the drawings that Williams creates. “After reviewing them, we go to the construction site and talk to the contractor and customer and make sure the project is being completed according to the design plans.”


Pazos ended his presentation by quizzing the students on how all components of STEM are used in the design and construction of a project.


The final presenter was Kristen Donofrio, a biologist in the district’s operations branch. Donofrio focused on the mathematics component of STEM.


“When I attended school at your age, I hated biology and chemistry,” Donofrio revealed. “I used to sit in class and doodle. The tests and stuff…it was horrible! But when I attended college, I loved it. So just because you think this is not for you now; always keep your options open.”


Donofrio told the students that one of the cool things she does as part of her field work is building beaches. She also said she writes a lot of environmental assessments. “I talk about what types of animals and plants are out there, what kind of impact building this beach will have on the environment and their habitat.”


Donofrio shared examples of her work and how math plays a huge role. “You can’t just throw a beach wherever you want. We have to first figure out if there are contaminants in the area that would pose a threat to human or animal life. No one wants to play in toxic stuff, right? So we take samples of the soil at different depths, and send it to a lab for testing to ensure the material is acceptable before we place it on the beach,” she said.


Donofrio also talked about wildlife management and the importance of water quality and the process the Corps uses to ensure the water is safe. She cited the oyster reef project at Norfolk District.


“We have baby oyster spats floating in the water and growing in little cages. We’ll take them out and measure them; we’ll take water quality samples to see how clear the water is, what the temperature is, the amount of salinity, or salt in the water. We’ll nurture them until they mature and are able to reproduce.”


Dr. Daniel Smith, principal of Corporate Landing Middle School, had nothing but praise for the community’s efforts to provide his students the opportunity to explore a variety of careers and professional opportunities in the STEM-related fields.


“The world is changing at such an incredible rate that we cannot predict the jobs needed for our students 5 or 10 years from now,” Smith said. “However, we do know that all students will need to be able to communicate, collaborate, and think critically and creatively while developing innovative solutions for problems. The STEM concept at Corporate Landing Middle School focuses on the Engineering Design Process as a way to develop critical thinking and problem-solving through effective communication and collaboration.


“This annual conference is an incredible opportunity for students to interact with experts and professionals from STEM-related fields and to discover how their learning is relevant.”


Norfolk District’s STEM program was formed in 2010, as part of the Defense Department’s ongoing initiative to attract students to pursue STEM careers in the military. Students just don't have an excitement for it, Defense officials said, adding that these type career opportunity events introduce STEM in a fun way to students at an early age.


Next up for Norfolk District’s STEM team: an Oct. 17 invitation to Woodside High School, Newport News, Va., and their annual Senior Planning Day.




Free service aims to match employers, students for STEM internships in Va.

The program, created by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, is an effort to streamline and centralize the internship application process. By doing so, the initiative aims to make it easier for students to build expertise in an in-demand field while giving employers a gateway to groom the highly skilled workers they say they badly need.

The initiative, known as the Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program, will create an online hub where Virginia employers can post the internships that they are offering in these fields.

Students can either fill out a broad application that puts them in consideration for any of the positions, or they can apply directly to specific jobs. They can also indicate a preference for working in a particular region of Virginia.

From there, employers can sift through the applicants using a range of search filters: They can sort them by grade point average, major, university or by keyword.

Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun) has been a champion of the program and plans to use it to find interns for EIT, the Sterling-based electronics design company at which he is chief technology officer.

May said the new program will formalize and speed up the recruitment process at his firm and will help other workplaces around the region find the talent they need.

Because of that, May describes it as “one of those things that you can’t afford not to do.”

The grant provides $600,000 to be used over two years. Mary Sandy, director of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, said that money covers the cost of building the database, marketing it to colleges, students and employers, and paying a staff to maintain it.

The effort is supported by all of the state’s regional technology trade associations, and its availability was first announced at a recent event held by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. These groups have pledged to market the service to its members.

Bobbie Kilberg, NVTC’s president and chief executive, said that 15 companies signed up right away at the launch event.

“Having an internship program that can build and move to full-time jobs once a student graduates is very important for workforce development,” Kilberg said.




‘Dinner with a scientist’ designed to help whet teens’ appetites for science, math

But getting them to care about science and math — that’s another challenge altogether, and one considered among the most important in education if the United States is to compete with other world powers.

Most teachers rarely have time to consider the global significance of it all. So the McLean-based Center for Excellence in Education wanted teachers of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) to consider how to engage students at a Sept. 18 event called “dinner with a scientist,” held at George Mason University’s Prince William campus.

Alessandra Luchini, an assistant science professor at George Mason, said she told teachers that their students must be able to see how science is applied in the real world. She found that many of the 25 or so Northern Virginia teachers who attended were already accomplishing that goal.

“I think they’re doing an extraordinarily good job of providing up-to-date examples,” she said. Luchini said she often brings in high school students to work in her lab and has had good results.

Chuchun Tsai, an engineering and technology teacher at Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County, said his job is to ensure that students are ready for a job. But he also said that his students want to be creative, and he has to balance skills with other activities to keep them engaged.

“We have to make sure we maintain that creativity,” Tsai said. “We don’t know what new jobs are going to be required of us in 10, 20 years.”

Christopher Moran, a teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, said he enjoyed hearing scientists and others talk about the real-world application of science, and that the dinner helped validate his approach — he said he looks to spark curiosity while making sure students are grounded in the fundamentals of science.

He said he has a lot of “A/F” students. Many are capable of doing well if he can get them interested. The stakes are large.

“The kids want to know more; some just don’t know how,” Moran said in an e-mail. “If we point them in the right direction, once you tap into their curiosity, they will do the rest.”




Northrop Grumman Foundation and National Math and Science Initiative Announce National STEM Education Program Results

HERNDON, Va., Oct 2, 2012 -- In partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), the Northrop Grumman Foundation announced that three high schools that the foundation sponsored as part of the Initiative for Military Families have produced a combined 105 percent increase in qualifying scores on Advanced Placement (AP) math, science and English test scores in the first year of program sponsorship.

The initiative's mission is to provide consistent, high-level math and science education in high schools serving military bases in the United States. The program brings college-level math, science and English courses to students through the AP curriculum and provides continuity for students in that coursework when their families are transferred.

"It's encouraging that after such outstanding efforts put in by the students, teachers and administrators, we saw such strong results proving that all their time and dedication to this program has paid off," said Sandra Evers-Manly, president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. "We know how important science and math are to our nation's future. Northrop Grumman and the Northrop Grumman Foundation are committed to improving education through programs that support students and teachers, and improving science, technology, engineering and math curricula."

The Northrop Grumman Foundation funds three schools: Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Okla.; Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Okla.; and Howard High School, Macon, Ga. Enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year has seen a 128 percent increase since the program's inception.

"These results are phenomenal. They will open doors to college for these students. Many of them have parents who are serving our country and have had to make sacrifices themselves," said Gregg Fleisher, senior vice president of NMSI. "We are so grateful to the Northrop Grumman Foundation for supporting this program as it gives students here the skills they will need to succeed in a more complicated world."




Gov. McDonnell starts Commonwealth STEM internship program

College and University students majoring in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) related fields have a free new resource for summer 2013 internships, as do companies who wish to hire them.

The newly established Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program (CSIIP), announced this morning at the Northern Virginia Technology Council Titans of Technology breakfast, offers a no-cost, centralized, online application system that allows students majoring in STEM fields at accredited Virginia colleges and universities, or Virginia students attending out-of-state accredited colleges and universities, the ability to search and apply for paid, STEM-related summer internships with Virginia companies. Additionally, it provides Virginia companies with free access to a large state-wide pool of qualified students for their summer internship opportunities. Students provide one comprehensive application that can be reviewed by potentially hundreds of companies throughout the state.

Speaking about the CSIIP, Governor McDonnell said, “A good education is the key to a good job. The Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program will help to prepare our students for the high-quality, high-paying jobs of the future. By better aligning higher education and the business sector, we are working to give every Virginian graduate a path to success. We must continue to develop the pipeline between Virginia’s excellent community colleges and universities and the business sector. This program, and programs like it, will enable more Virginia students to engage and learn the much-needed skills that so many careers of the 21st century require.”

 The Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program directly links to the governor’s ‘Top Jobs’ higher education legislation, which unanimously passed the General Assembly in 2011. The landmark education reforms have a focus on the need to train and retain more STEM workers in the Commonwealth to fill the high-demand, high-income jobs 21st Century and calls for the creation of a STEM public-private partnership. This internship program is just one example of a unique partnership that will provide more opportunity and experience for Virginia students in the fast-growing career fields that are flourishing in the Commonwealth.

“The Commonwealth STEM Industry Internship Program works in concert with the governor’s focus on growing opportunity for more Virginians. CSIIP will provide the much-needed quality STEM students to employers while giving those students the access to the experience they will need to succeed,” said Secretary of Education Laura Fornash. “By providing quality opportunities for the next generation of Virginia leaders in the STEM industry, this program will make the critical connection between Virginia’s exceptional STEM students and Virginia’s growing high-tech business community.”

 “CSIIP will help to close the gap between the needs of employers in high growth fields like science, technology, engineering and math and the skill sets of our new graduates,” said Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey. “Virginia has the highest concentration of high-tech jobs in the country and ensuring that our college students are prepared for the workplace is essential to their future and the future of the Commonwealth.”

With funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) created CSIIP in partnership with Virginia’s regional technology councils. The regional technology councils throughout Virginia are serving as the programs’ conduit to member companies who will register and post internships at the CSIIP online sites. Career Services offices at Virginia’s colleges and community colleges are collaborating with the VSGC to make students aware of CSIIP. The Virginia Manufacturers Association’s Dream !t, Do !t® Virginia network is also collaborating to spread the word on the program.

Students can express interest in specific internships or submit their application for broad consideration. They can also express interest in specific regions of the state. Participating companies will be able to search the applicant pool via a sophisticated search and sort tool. Companies will make selections, interview, and hire students directly. Hourly rates will be determined by the company, but a minimum rate has been established.

Companies doing business in Virginia can register and list internships at the CSIIP online site right now and are encouraged to do so before Oct. 31. The application process will be opened to students on Nov. 1, 2012. Student applications are due on Jan. 31, 2013 and the application database will be opened to participating companies on Feb. 11, 2013. Visit the site at to learn more.

VSGC has placed more than 4,200 interns in paid positions through past programs. VSGC Director Mary Sandy said, “CSIIP is a major step to help Virginia companies address their pressing need for STEM workers. Internships are an excellent way for students to do early work in their fields and a great way for companies to try out young talent for potential future employment. Students frequently tell us how challenging it is to learn about internships and to apply for them, and companies tell us that securing a diverse pool of qualified applications can be difficult as well. We hope that CSIIP can facilitate making these workforce connections.” 

The program is open to full-time undergraduate students who are taking at least 12 credit hours per semester at an accredited Virginia university, college, or community college or an accredited out-of-state college or university. Students must be at least 18 years of age, and majoring in STEM disciplines. Prior to starting their summer 2013 internship, they must have completed at least 30 or more post-secondary education credits and must be at least a rising sophomore. Seniors graduating at the end of the spring semester 2013 are also eligible to participate. Students must also have a GPA of at least 2.7 on a 4.0 scale, and must be either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.



Wolf Trap and Northrop Grumman Foundation Partner to Enhance Early STEM Learning Through the Arts on a National Scale

Following a successful first year, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and Northrop Grumman Foundation announce today their partnership renewal in continuance of a national Early Childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Learning Through the Arts initiative for preschool and Kindergarten children, their teachers, parents, and caregivers at ten locations around the country. This unique program integrates elements of the performing arts into existing school curriculum to teach STEM concepts and skills to children ages 3-5 years. Wolf Trap's approach has been the subject of independent research that documents the positive impact of arts-based learning strategies on children's cognitive and social development and school readiness in areas including math and logic.

The program features multi-session classroom residencies; professional development workshops for administrators, teachers, and specialists; and family involvement workshops for parents and caregivers. In each of these sessions, Wolf Trap Teaching Artists will provide instruction and collaborate with participants on ways to engage children in active STEM learning.

"The Northrop Grumman Foundation is committed to providing unique educational experiences related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for students and teachers." said Sandra Evers-Manly, vice president of corporate responsibility and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. "We have seen great success with the many STEM programs we support around the country for middle and high school students and teachers. We are pleased to once again partner with Wolf Trap on this program to reach children even earlier in their education, tapping into their natural interest in the arts, to encourage interest and curiosity in the topics of STEM."

The second year of this Northrop Grumman-sponsored program will be offered in schools in Waldorf, MD; Cambridge, MD; Redondo Beach, CA; Melbourne, FL; Fairfax, VA; Hopewell, VA; Petersburg, VA; Lawton, OK; Colorado Springs, CO; and Irving, TX.

The Wolf Trap Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts program was launched in 2010 in the metro D.C. region, building upon Wolf Trap's 30-year history developing and delivering early childhood arts education programs in public schools and Head Start centers.

"We appreciate Northrop Grumman's continued support and partnership on this Wolf Trap mission-critical program helping to prepare teachers, and to provide the next generation of students with the crucial skills they will need to fully round out their intellectual development," said Terrence Jones, president and CEO of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

The Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts is an internationally respected program that provides innovative arts-based teaching strategies and services in more than 1,000 classrooms serving 35,000 young children, their parents, educators, and teaching artists each year. Since 1981, the Wolf Trap Institute has been integrating the arts—including music, movement, story-telling, and drama—into preschool and Kindergarten curriculum to enhance language, literacy, math, and science learning. By adding this latest initiative to its core services, Wolf Trap brings over three decades of experience in early childhood arts education to enhance STEM learning using its proven techniques and teaching models.

To learn more about Wolf Trap's Early STEM/Arts program, visit, or contact Akua Kouyate, Senior Director, Education (; 800-404-8461 or 703-255-1933). 



NVCC-Led Consortium Garners Federal Grant for STEM Education


Northern Virginia Community College will serve as the leader and fiscal agent for a consortium of community colleges nationwide that have received a $12.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to develop new approaches in training students for careers in science, technology, math, transportation and health care.


NVCC will lead a consortium that also consists of Austin [Texas] Community College, Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Muskegon Community College and Mott Community College in Michigan, Shoreline Community College in Seattle and Virginia Western Community College.


The “Credentials to Careers” initiative will show how community colleges, working with nonprofit workforce-development partners and local employers, can quickly scale-up high-performing education and training programs to prepare adult workers for careers in fast-growing, in-demand occupations.




Roanoke County's STEM Academy makes a difference for high school students

Students in a motorsports class at Roanoke County’s STEM Academy weld pieces of a car together Monday morning.


They're getting hands on experience for a possible career in professional racing.


It’s one of four career paths that make up the Governor's STEM Academy in Roanoke County.


Down the hall more students are studying engineering, mechatronics and mass communications.


The new academy has students excited to be accepted.


“I really like it.  It's definitely a lot more than you'll find at your normal school which is, we definitely wouldn't be doing this at William Byrd,” explained Daniel Webb, a mechatronics student.


“It's just really exciting that it's become a more important academy to the state,” said Maddy Dodd, a mass communications student.


To show just how important and unique the school is to our area, education leaders from across our region and even state tour the STEM Academy with the hope to grow this concept.


“This is what we're hoping to create, environments like this for all communities across the commonwealth, but the reality is this is a drop in the bucket,” said Deputy Secretary of Education, Javaid Siddiqi.


Basically, the STEM Academy takes traditional hands on and technical classes and puts more of the core subjects behind them, like math and science.


“I think the engineering program is great, because it doesn't just help us with our engineering courses, but it gives us a taste of how the science and math incorporate into it,” explained Katherine Yang, engineering student.


“So this is really a grassroots effort,” said Dr. Pat Wright, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, an effort to make a difference in the futures of our local students.


“I think it makes a difference.  When you talk to teachers and you find out what the students are doing afterwards, we know that we've prepared them for something,” explained Dr. Lorraine Lange, Roanoke County Public School’s Superintendent.


That “something” is more than likely a career in science, technology, engineering, or math.




New math Standards of Learning tests more challenging for all Virginia student subgroups

RICHMOND, Va. — The state’s new, more rigorous mathematics tests proved to be a challenge for all types of students during the last school year, the first in which they were tested under revised standards aimed at better preparing them for college or post-graduation employment, education officials said Wednesday.

The Virginia Department of Education had announced last month that math results for the 2011-2012 school year were down notably from the year before because of the new standards, but said the rates provided a “solid foundation” for future achievement.

According to statewide data released Wednesday, 68 percent of students passed the math portion of the Standards of Learning tests in the 2011-2012 school year, compared with 87 percent the year before. Pass rates fell by between 8 and 26 percentage points among certain races and other subgroups.

“What matters now is where we go from here,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said in a news release. “At the state level, we must set aggressive but attainable annual objectives for narrowing and ultimately closing these achievement gaps.”

The largest drops in pass rates between the two most-recent school years were seen among black students, whose rates fell from 77 percent to 52 percent; and students with disabilities, whose rates fell from 66 percent to 40 percent, officials said.

Pass rates for students categorized as economically disadvantaged fell from 78 percent to 54 percent, students with limited English proficiency saw pass rates decline from 82 percent to 59 percent, and pass rates for Hispanic students fell from 83 percent to 61 percent.

The smallest drops in pass rates were seen among Asian students, whose rates fell from 95 percent to 87 percent; and white students, whose rates declined from 90 percent to 75 percent.

While students across the state and by subgroup experienced declines in math assessment pass rates, officials said results for English, science and history/social science assessments stayed relatively flat, with some improvements.

The education department will continue to provide training and resources to help reach the new math standards, as well as new English and science standards that are set to be implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, officials have said.

Virginia plans to release its annual accreditation ratings based on test results and other measures later this month. Schools will be able to use a three-year average of test results to help lessen the impact of lower rates in the last school year.




Northern Virginia Community College Receives $1 Million Grant For STEM Education
Northern Virginia Community College received a $1-million grant from the Virginia General Assembly to expand its STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—initiative throughout area school systems, starting with Loudoun County Public Schools.
Paving a pathway to employment and higher education in STEM-related fields, NVCC’s program SySTEMic Solutions offers courses and camps for elementary, middle and high school students that align with STEM curriculum.
The grant spans two years, giving NVCC $500,000 per year. It will allow the college to replicate the SySTEMic Solutions model from Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County schools, which began about 18 months ago, to those in Loudoun, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax.
According to its website, SySTEMic Solutions offers the following activities:
• Professional development opportunities for teachers of STEM curricula in partnership with George Mason University;
• Dual enrollment courses with a STEM focus in the school districts;
• Expanded opportunities to earn industry-aligned certifications;
• Hands-on SOL-based science lessons at the elementary level with industry input and support;
• Part-time employment and internship opportunities for students in STEM programs;
• STEM-focused activities/camps that stimulate student interest and awareness in advanced technologies;
• Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program activities and student support services;
• Aligned secondary to post-secondary STEM curriculum and program offerings; and
• Expanded robotics programs at elementary (FIRST Lego), middle (VEX) and high school (FIRST, VEX and SeaPerch) levels.
Odette Scovel, instructional science supervisor for Loudoun County Public Schools, is looking forward to using SySTEMic Solutions to further the school system’s STEM efforts, which already include camps for elementary and middle school students in parts of Leesburg funded through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant, STEM day with George Washington University for high school students, and a three-week summer STEM course for teachers also in conglomeration with GWU, among others.
“As a scientist, [STEM] has certainly been my focus all my life, and I just don’t think anybody can grow up well-educated without understanding STEM,” she said.
“Things change so quickly that I really feel like kids need to have a very good understanding about how science works, and that extends way beyond just science. It’s so many other skills they learn about—how to communicate, how to interpret information, how to figure out a process, how to understand a whole collection of data, how to look at patterns. They last them long after they are out of a science class.”
Since the General Assembly officially granted NVCC the funding this month—members of the college first visited Richmond in January to present its plan for the future of SySTEMic Solutions—the college’s strategy for bringing the program to Loudoun County Public Schools is still in the preliminary stages.
“We will target hands-on lessons in elementary schools and get camps up and running for summer 2013,” Amy Harris, director of SySTEMic Solutions, said. “We are going to hire a STEM coordinator who will work for Northern Virginia and these other school divisions…to be the boots on the ground to initiate and implement all these activities with the school divisions. We are in the process of putting together a position to hire in Loudoun County now.”
Once a coordinator is hired, Loudoun County Public Schools will be ready to move forward with the program.
“That is great news for us,” Scovel said. “Once they do that, we will be in the planning mode and start figuring out [details].”
Harris is unsure which schools in Loudoun will be targeted. However, she would like to start bringing lessons to elementary schools in the fall, if possible, as this is the key time in a child’s life to gain interest in those topics. 
“We start in elementary school to get students excited about STEM. We have to catch them while they are in elementary school,” she said. “[STEM education] is so important because it really correlates directly to workforce development and economic development. There are many STEM-related corporations here in the Northern Virginia area, and we really need to continue to educate our students so we can continue to fulfill the technical workforce in the years to come. If we don’t do something now, starting in elementary schools, by the time 2020 comes, those corporations are not going to have workers to be able to fill those positions.”
Bruce McDade, superintendent of Manassas Park City Schools—where SySTEMic Solutions has already made its footprint—shared a similar sentiment.
“There is such a high demand for these specialized jobs in Northern Virginia, and we want our kids to be ready to step into those jobs well prepared,” he said. “That means getting them excited about STEM education not at the high school level—by they time they are in high school, it is too late. We have to get them involved and excited at the elementary level.”
To understand the skills and knowledge students must have to either pursue a college-level degree or a career in science, technology, math or engineering fields, NVCC partners with corporations that focus on that work.
“A large part of the SySTEMic Solutions model is getting corporations at the table to let us know what their needs are in the workforce,” Harris said. “Corporations also have their own part of outreach. They have well-developed elementary school hands-on lessons. We take the corporations who we are partnering with, and we use their elementary lessons and use our corporations’ volunteers to go into the classrooms and work with students.”
Aerojet of Gainesville—an operating unit of GenCorp Inc., a national company that develops defense and aerospace propulsion technology—became involved with SySTEMic Solutions at its inception.
“We have funded programs through SySTEMic Solutions that hit elementary and middle schools. Our employees have been involved in judging science fairs, summer camps where students would go and do robotics and rocketry,” Juanita Garcia, executive director of GenCorp Inc., said. “We have been more mentors and role models for the program and being involved to continue the dialogue on improving the SySTEMic Solutions program.”
Likewise, Micron Technology, Inc.—an international company with a presence in Manassas that designs and builds advanced memory and semiconductor technologies—has created a lesson for fifth-graders that focuses on electricity, supplementing their in-class curriculum to help prepare them for Standards of Learning assessments.
“We break the students up into stations, and the whole lesson lasts about an hour,” Harris said. “During the lesson, we are able to use equipment so we can show students how to make lemon batteries, series and parallel circuits, magnets and static electricity. Students are taught an electricity lesson in fourth grade, but they aren’t tested on it in an SOL until fifth grade, when they aren’t really familiar with electricity. Students have forgotten it. We go in starting in January and review electricity with those students, and the SOL scores do increase.”
SySTEMic Solutions also encourages school divisions to incorporate more STEM programs in their schools. With the help of the program, Manassas Park City's four schools now have integrated robotics programs. “That has been a real accomplishment,” McDade said.
And the program doesn’t just hone in on younger students. Targeting older students, the program has also embedded Pathway to the baccalaureate counselors in high schools to “help identify and enroll students into the STEM pipeline, [and] work with students to be college ready for STEM programs,” according to the program’s website.
Overall, Garcia has recognized more student curiosity in STEM topics because of SySTEMic Solutions. 
“We don’t have any data yet that says this many kids went into a college course or chose a college major because of SySTEMic Solutions,” she said. “But what we have been seeing is much more participation and interest and demand for these kinds of programs in the schools by both students and parents getting their kids involved.”
Harris ultimately would like SySTEMic Solutions to be a sustainable program that will run for years to come. By 2015, she hopes more than 3,000 students who were part of the program will be preparing for STEM careers.
For more information about SySTEMic Solutions, go to





12th Annual STEM Education Conference

World-Class STEM Education in America
October 1-2, 2012
Hilton Arlington
950 North Stafford Street
Arlington, Virginia
About the Conference
Join fellow STEM education leaders, stakeholders, and Einstein Fellows from across the U.S. in a dialogue on achieving global leadership in STEM education.
Interactive presentations and expert insight on issues, including:
Recruiting and developing effective STEM educators
Impacts of common curricula on STEM education
Effective measurement of student achievement in STEM subjects
State and district-level STEM leadership
Effectively advocating for STEM education
Networking - During a facilitated table-top discussions, as well as during the evening receptions and exhibit hours, participants will have opportunities to share, relate, and network with colleagues.
Meeting Members of Congress - While at the conference, participants will also be able to meet with their members of Congress to convey the importance of STEM education as a national priority. Before going to the Hill, experienced advocates will help participants develop strong messages and action plans, which can also be used upon returning to home states and districts.
100 Women Leaders in STEM – In partnership with STEMconnector, a special celebration honoring the 100 Women Leaders in STEM will take place Tuesday, October 2 following the Hill appointments. RSVP during conference registration.
Early Bird (by August 31):
Triangle Members – $225
Non-Members – $275
Regular (after August 31):
Triangle Members – $250
Non-Members – $300
Register Now (pay by credit card or check)OR Register by mailing in registration form with a check

Sponsorship and Exhibit Opportunities
Calling all leaders in classroom innovation and cutting edge technologies! Do you have a program or product that is having an impact on STEM education? Do you have resources that would be of interest to STEM education stakeholders? Put your name in front of a national audience of STEM education leaders by taking advantage of our excellent sponsorship and exhibit opportunities! A wide range of opportunities are available to fit your needs and budget.
A special “Innovations in STEM Education” Networking Reception will highlight the latest innovative resources being utilized in today’s classrooms. Companies and organizations who are leading the way in cutting edge technologies and creative classroom innovations are especially invited to participate as exhibitors.
Space is limited. Tables granted on first-come, first-serve basis.
Lodging Information
A block of rooms has been reserved for conference attendees at the Hilton Arlington for a discounted rate of $226 per night.
Reservations must be made by August 31, 2012 to access the group rate. Hotel Reservation Information Here



Virginia to require an online course for graduation
About a year ago, the Virginia Beach School Board considered a requirement that all students take an online course before graduation.
It’d be a good experience, advocates argued—another feather in graduates’ digital caps. Opponents worried that it would penalize students who didn’t have computers at home.
Eventually, board members tabled the proposal. But now, it doesn’t matter. The
General Assembly has turned a similar idea into a statewide requirement.
Starting with ninth-graders in fall 2013, all students pursuing a standard or advanced-studies diploma must take some sort of online course or part of a course to graduate in Virginia.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Bill Johnsen, director of instructional technology for Virginia Beach schools. “The state follows us.”
The requirement isn’t exactly like the one proposed for Virginia Beach, but it’s close. At their core, both stem from a belief that today’s students need the experience of taking coursework online to do well in college and the workplace—two areas that are increasingly using the internet for classes and training.
Digital learning, this movement is being infused in schools across the country,” said Javaid Siddiqi, deputy secretary of education for the state. “We want to make sure all students are exposed to this mode of instruction.”
But while Virginia Beach’s idea involved courses worth at least half a credit, the state’s allows for noncredit-bearing courses. Students also can satisfy the requirement by completing a digital unit within a brick-and-mortar course, Siddiqi said.
The new law makes Virginia the fifth state to require some form of online learning before students graduate.
Michigan, Alabama, Florida, and Idaho currently require a virtual learning credit for high school graduation. Michigan was the first state to implement such a requirement in 2006, followed by Alabama in 2008.
“Michigan knew students would need 21st-century skills,” said Allison Powell, vice president of state and district services at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). “Students not only receive content in an online course, but they also get skills [such as] communicating and using those actual technology tools.”
In Virginia Beach, officials said it’s tough to say how much work they’ll have to do to prepare for fall 2013.
The division already has Virtual Virginia Beach, which might be the largest online course offering in Hampton Roads. This summer, about 891 students are enrolled in 34 sections of 10 courses in the program; last year about 150 students were enrolled in five courses.
Students log into a website and complete coursework at their own pace, but with guidance from a teacher.
Colleen Cooper, who taught English 12 online earlier this summer in Virginia Beach, said students learn through reading and watching videos of PowerPoint lectures. They communicate with her and with one another through instant messaging and discussion boards, and they can reach her by phone or meet her in person.
Joe Burnsworth, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said that communication-heavy model is Virginia Beach’s preference.
But there are other ways to offer online learning, he said, and which ones the different divisions will be able to use to satisfy the state’s requirement remains to be seen. Local school officials are waiting for more detailed instructions from the state, he said.
Also unknown is the cost, which worries Brent Mckenzie, one of the Virginia Beach board members who opposed the idea for a requirement last year.
Online courses are a great option for some students, he said. Making them a requirement for everyone could be expensive, he said, and problematic for students who aren’t particularly good at independent time management.
“This is the trend and this is the direction we’re going in, and we’ll have to make the best of it,” Mckenzie said. “We’ll have to work out the kinks and maybe offer some tutoring to students. But, again, that’s time and money and resources that’s getting used up.”



STEM Leaders Convening to Address U.S. STEM Education System

On October 1-2, STEM education leaders from across the nation will convene in Arlington, Virginia for a powerful discussion on building a STEM education system that is the best in the world. STEM leaders who register by August 31 to participate in this 12th Annual Conference, hosted by Triangle Coalition, will receive an early-bird discount.
A dynamic, interactive series of presentations will examine the current climate in STEM education, consider internationally renowned solutions, and explore pathways to defining and achieving “A World-Class STEM Education System in America.” Experts will provide insight on today’s most pressing issues, including the recruitment and development of STEM teachers; movements to reform math and science curriculum; and the effective measurement of student achievement in STEM subjects.
Keynote presenter Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy and author of Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, will discuss transforming the U.S. education system to meet the demands of today’s workforce and global economy.
In addition, participants will have a wealth of opportunities to share, relate, and network with one another; engage with a roundtable of state STEM leaders; and preview cutting-edge technologies and innovations impacting today’s STEM classrooms. To conclude the conference, participants will have opportunities to meet with members of Congress to reinforce the importance of STEM education as a national priority.
To learn more about the conference and to take advantage of the early-bird registration discount, visit

Experts: UVa.’s Coursera partnership far from an embrace of online learning


The University of Virginia will make four of its courses available for free online in 2013 after the campus’s governing board last month cited a lack of web-based courses in its controversial ouster of President Teresa Sullivan.
But advocates for online education said the university’s partnership with for-profit internet learning site Coursersa—which announced partnerships with 12 universities July 17—should be seen as a tepid embrace of nontraditional courses, not as a momentous shift toward a new learning model.
UVa. will post courses in physics, history, and philosophy to Coursera, part of the massive open online course (MOOC) movement that includes other free educational websites like edX, Udacity, and the Khan Academy.
The courses will be available to anyone with an internet connection. UVa. students will not earn credits upon completion of each Coursera class, whereas students at the University of Washington soon will be able to take Coursera classes for credit.
Coursera offers 43 college courses to more than 680,000 people worldwide. The site could have more than 100 classes by January, according to a company announcement.
Educational technology leaders said UVa.’s sudden willingness to join the MOOC movement reeked of political consideration in the wake of a nasty fight between the school’s governing board, led by rector Helen Dragas, and Sullivan, who was voted out in June only to be reinstated after a weeks-long campus outcry from faculty and students.
“From afar, the University of Virginia’s partnership with Coursera seems to be a reaction to the pressures President Sullivan received from the board, and specifically Helen Dragas,” said Kevin Corbett, a technologist who tracks advances in online learning in K-12 and higher education. “Really pretty crazy the power plays that exist within institutions as they rush to jump on the new online learning gold rush.”
In a lengthy critique of Sullivan published this summer, Dragas said the university had fallen behind peer institutions in online class offerings, bemoaning the lack of a “centralized approach to dealing with this potentially transformational development” at UVa.
“Bold experimentation and advances by the distinguished likes of Stanford, Harvard, and MIT have brought online learning into the mainstream, virtually overnight,” Dragas wrote in her critique.
Sullivan sought to ease fears among UVa. decision makers that making course lectures and material available for no charge on the web would cheapen the university’s academics.
“They will in no way diminish the value of a UVa. degree, but rather enhance our brand,” she said. “We also gain the opportunity to share the expertise of our faculty, both in the classroom and the research labs.”
Bill Sams, an executive in residence at Ohio University, said prestigious schools’ participation in MOOCs was only an initial step toward credential-based learning in the global online classroom.
“For those who try to make this sea change go away with the observation that these courses still don’t lead to credits or degrees are beyond naive in that this phenomena is only six months old,” Sams said. “As industry recognizes the power of badges to define specific industry job skills, the concept of one size liberal arts degree fits all is going to be in serious trouble.”
Peter Galuszka, a writer for Bacon’s Rebellion, a site covering Virginia policy debates, wrote in a blog post that UVa. officials—even after the push for more online courses this summer—should ease into web-based learning options.
The “online fad” has driven many colleges and universities toward the nontraditional MOOC model of free courses for anyone anytime, Galuszka said, pointing out that students who complete a free online course get a certificate, not college credit.
“In Virginia, we are being told that this is a revolution and we’d better get on board or face the existential threat,” he wrote. “The bigger threat, however, is jumping in and cheating children and college students of an education.”
Sams said this month’s Coursera announcements are just the start of MOOC mainstreaming in higher education.
“Governance groups have increasing frustration over the never ending cost increases and administrations are displaying the classic lack of vision and leadership that leads to disruptive change,” he said.
Other schools entering new partnerships with Coursera are California Institute of Technology, Duke University, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, UC San Francisco, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Toronto, and the University of Washington.


Math-science charter proposed in Loudoun, modeled on school with Turkish connection

A group of Loudoun County residents is seeking permission to open a charter school in 2013 that would fill growing demand for an intensive curriculum in math and science in grades six through 12.

The Loudoun proposal, which is pending before the Virginia Board of Education, is patterned after a math-science charter school in Anne Arundel County that offers Turkish-language classes and has other connections to Turkey. Established in 2005, that school boasts some of the best standardized test scores in Maryland.

But the Anne Arundel school, Chesapeake Science Point, had to fight to keep its doors open this spring after Anne Arundel Schools Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell and his staff detailed alleged management problems, including consistently negative cash flow, that have dogged the school since its founding.

Now, supporters of the proposed Loudoun Math and IT Academy are being asked to address the concerns raised across the Potomac River.

“It just seems like problem after problem after problem, and they weren’t minor,” Winsome E. Sears, a member of the Virginia Board of Education, said of the Anne Arundel school at a June 28 meeting on the Loudoun plan.

“How can we ensure that we don’t have these same problems?” she asked.

The Loudoun applicants wave aside questions about the Anne Arundel school, saying that it has a clear record of satisfying students and parents and producing high achievement in science, technology, engineering and math — the fields known collectively as STEM.

“We need more choices in Loudoun,” said Ali Gokce, a father of two who serves on the governing board of the proposed Loudoun school. “With the U.S. losing its edge on science and math education, parents want more rigorous STEM education.”

The state board could vote on the proposal as early as July 26. If it is approved, the plan will then go to the county school board for a final decision. Applicants hope to open the school in 2013.

It would serve almost 700 students in grades six through 12.

The school could be the first charter in Northern Virginia. Another charter proposal is pending in Fairfax County.

Like Chesapeake Science Point, the Loudoun effort is led primarily by scientists, educators and busi­ness­peo­ple of Turkish origin who say theirs is a successful school formula.

At the Anne Arundel school, teachers make home visits to connect with families and offer free early morning and weekend tutoring. Students are encouraged to accelerate through the math and science curriculum, taking high school-level math courses while still in middle grades.

They also have the option of taking Turkish-language classes and visiting Turkey with their teachers. They routinely participate in the Turkish Olympiad — an international contest in poetry, singing and folklore — as well as local and national competitions in science and math.

“I believe we were able to put together a very strong community over there,” said Fatih Kandil, a former Chesapeake Science Point principal who is now part of the Loudoun group.



Senatorial candidate Kaine pushes workforce-training initiative

[Tim] Kaine for Virginia released “Investing in our Workers” – a strategic initiative to develop the world’s most talented workforce and equip young people with the skills they need to succeed in the jobs and industries of a global economy.

Crafted after more than a year of conversations between U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine and educators, business owners, students, and other stakeholders across Virginia, the agenda emphasizes many strategies Kaine employed as governor including investments in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum, career and technical education, and workforce training.

In addition, today Kaine for Virginia launched “Educators for Kaine,” a group of more than 140 education professionals who support Kaine’s bid for the U.S. Senate. This diverse group of educators will be an integral part of the broad coalition that will help elect Kaine in November.

“As governor, Tim Kaine worked with a bipartisan coalition to invest in every aspect of Virginia’s education system and raise educational standards so our kids could receive a world-class education that would prepare them for college or the workforce,” said Jean Bankos, former president of the Virginia Education Association. “By working with parents, teachers, and students, Kaine demonstrated he could get results by bringing all constituencies together to educate a new generation of Virginians who could outpace the competition.”

“Even though Kaine served as governor during the worst recession in 70 years, he worked hard to continue crucial investments in education. I spoke with countless Virginia families who felt more secure knowing that our governor continued to make education investments a priority because he knew they were critical to the future of our children and our economy,” said former Arlington School Board Member Libby Garvey. “Tim Kaine directed millions in need-based tuition assistance to students to help make college more affordable in a tough economy, and Virginia was Education Week’s state in which a child has the best chance for success during his term.”

“As governor, Tim Kaine consistently demonstrated his belief in the value of career and technical education – during his term he created nine Governor’s Career and Technical Academies in Virginia,” said Jim Batterson, a former teacher, school board chairman and former senior advisor to the Commonwealth for STEM Initiatives. “And throughout his career, he has always strongly supported programs that emphasize a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math curriculum to prepare our students to compete in the global workforce. We need more leaders in Washington who will work to ensure our students are trained with the skills they need to compete for the jobs of the 21st century.”

“I support Tim Kaine because he understands that the key to progress is an ongoing commitment to expanding and improving educational opportunities in our Commonwealth,” said Michael Palermo, a high-school teacher in Arlington. “As governor, he promoted policies that narrowed the achievement gap and encouraged more of Virginia’s students to take advanced courses. Educators across the state are standing behind Kaine because of his efforts to make education investments a priority.”

In addition to prioritizing STEM and career and technical education, Kaine also emphasized workforce training. During his term, Kaine opened five comprehensive workforce one stop centers in Charlottesville, Roanoke, Prince William, Danville, and South Boston to serve jobseekers and businesses in the region from one central location.

Over the next four months, “Educators for Kaine” will share with their friends, colleagues, and neighbors, Kaine’s deep commitment to education and his long record of support for education programs, from pre-K to higher education and workforce training.

“I am proud and grateful for the support of so many teachers from across the state who are charged with educating our young people. Over our history, Virginia has shown investments in education pay dividends and are critical to raising our platform for economic growth,” said Kaine. “I am confident that by pursuing educational and workforce development strategies, we can ensure every child has access to a first-rate education and every worker has access to training programs that will prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. I am committed to working with parents, students, educators, and business owners to ensure we tap the best ideas to accomplish this goal.”

The four areas of Kaine’s workforce development plan are:

Ensure Each Child Receives Personalized Instruction: As Senator, Kaine will support individualized learning plans and the resources and tools teachers need to best teach and prepare future generations.

Revitalize Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education: As Senator, Tim Kaine will work with all stakeholders – educators, industry leaders, businesses, and parents – to develop comprehensive reform to STEM education, support efforts to offer STEM classes earlier, and raise existing standards. Kaine will also continue to encourage increased training and support for STEM teachers.

Elevate the Importance of Career and Technical Education (CTE): Tim Kaine supports a Congressional Technical Excellence recognition for high-achieving students and necessary resources to bolster career and technical education through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

Streamline Federal Workforce Development Programs: Tim Kaine supports efforts to make the workforce development system more transparent and simple, to increase its success, as well as to make sure there is clear accountability if goals are not met. In addition, Kaine will look for ways to support public-private partnerships to ensure workers are receiving the training that will prepare them for today’s available positions.





ECPI Director wins NMTC award

The National Minority Technology Council (NMTC) is pleased to announce that the winner of the Chairman’s Award for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education is Paul Nussbaum, Campus Director of Academic Affairs at the Richmond, VA campus of ECPI University.


The award is given in recognition of Mr. Nussbaum’s leadership in the creation of the Teachers Teaching Teachers program offered by ECPI. The award will be presented June 26, 2012 at the NMTC Dallas District evening event hosted by Karl Cureton, Chairman of the NTMC, and Co-Chair of the 2012 U.S. News STEM Solutions Leadership Summit taking place in Dallas, TX from June 27th through June 29th.


Teachers Teaching Teachers is a STEM program that assists local public school teachers gain their recertification and also deliver STEM to the classroom. These classes are heavily subsidized by ECPI University to make them affordable to the teachers. More importantly, the coursework includes term projects in which the teachers create tools that they can immediately use in their classroom. For example, the recently completed Storyboarding for Animation class required teachers go beyond pictures and movies to create interactive web pages that students can click on and actively control.


“A critical component of STEM programs is to find initiatives that fit well into the classroom, but also deliver them in ways that teachers feel will be successful and will want to deploy,” explains Karl Cureton. “Unfortunately, many STEM funding dollars sit idle in programs that teachers do not see as valuable or have no time to deploy. That has not been the case with the program Paul Nussbaum has created at ECPI University. One of the reasons this program was selected to receive the Chairman’s Award for Excellence in STEM Education is that the response by the public school teachers has been overwhelming, with more classes being added to respond to the demand.”


“We had no idea that this program would be so popular, but we should have guessed it,” said Mr. Nussbaum. “The ECPI University faculty and their methods of technology instruction are career-focused and hands-on; a perfect fit for the dual goals of a rigorous college curriculum, and creating tools that teachers can immediately use in their classrooms. Thanks to the vision of ECPI management and the skill of our faculty, we are delivering on the STEM promise. We are currently looking for other sources of funding for this STEM initiative, as it may not be possible for ECPI to indefinitely continue this subsidy level, but I am sure we will find a way and expand this program to benefit more school districts.”




 Inventor Dean Kamen to Unveil Youth Invention Award Winners on June 19

On Tuesday, June 19th at 10:30 a.m., the FIRST LEGO League will be having an award ceremony to honor the finalists in the 2011 contest; Food FactorThe contest consisted of multiple challenges.  The first was to research and present on an innovative solution to a problem that all food faces; how to reach the consumer without being spoiled or contaminated.  The teams would each focus on a specific problem and work out a way to fix it.  They would then present their findings to the contest judges.  The other challenge consisted of a "Robot Game."  The teams had to construct a robot using LEGO Mindstorm parts, and then have that robot perform autonomous specific tasks relating to food transportation.

At the ceremony, the teams will demonstrate their inventions for the attendees before the winners are announced.  The winner will recieve funding and assistance from Edison Nation to bring their product to market, and the runners-up will win cash from the  X PRIZE Foundation to help improve their inventions.  Representatives from various organizations will also be speaking. 

Location: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Madison Building; 600 Dulany Street; Alexandria, Va.

When: Tuesday, June 19, 2012: Ceremony: 10:30 a.m. – noon, Eastern Media Avail: noon – 1:00 p.m.


  •  Margaret Focarino, Ph.D., Commissioner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

  •  Elisabeth Hagen, M.D., Undersecretary, Food Safety, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

  •  Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration

  •  Dean Kamen, Inventor and Founder, FIRSTJon Dudas, President, FIRST

  •  Robert K. Weiss, Vice Chairman and President, X PRIZE Foundation

  •  Louis Foreman, Founder of Edison Nation and Emmy Award-Winning PBS Television Show, Everyday Edisons 


Greensville County High School teacher selected for fellowship


Santiaga Gasalao-Epps, a mathematics teacher at Greensville County High School has been selected to take part in the Siemens STEM Institute fellowship. Epps was chosen as one of 50 middle and high school educators from across the country to take part in this event.


Epps has been a teacher for all of 28 years. She has taught in the Philippines for 21 years and the remainder has been spent as a teacher for the Greensville County Public School system along with Southside Virginia Community College. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Mathematics which she received at the age of 20 from West Visayas State College , a Post-Graduate Certificate in advance teaching of secondary-mathematics from Curtin University, Western Australia, a masters of arts Degree in teaching mathematics and a doctor of education degree both from West Visayas State University of Iloilo City Philippines. She was the Director of Statistical Data Processing Center as well as the Research and Statistics Consultant of WVSU before coming to the United States.


Epps came to the United States in 2004 through a Visiting International Faculty Program (VIF). Through the VIF program, She was recruited to serve as a full-time classroom teacher in primary and secondary school in the United States on a three-year cultural exchange visa known as a J-1 visa. In 2006 Epps married Franklin Epps of Emporia, which allowed her take necessary actions to remain in the United States.


The Siemens STEM Institute is an all expense paid weeklong immersion program that promotes hands-on, real-world integration of STEM in the classroom. It will take place July 29 through August 3 just outside of Washington, DC. , at the world headquarters of Discovery Communications. Epps, along with the other 49 educators, will be exposed to leading scientists, through leaders, personalities and innovators whose work of STEM disciplines shape and define our world today. The goal of the Siemens STEM Institute is to create a group of STEM ambassadors who can take what they learn back into their own classrooms and become key influencers in their schools and communities.


Epps received a confirmation email on April 15 informing her that she had been chosen for the Siemens program. “I really didn’t expect to be selected, but I am so excited”, she said. “It is a lifetime privilege to be chosen as one of the 2012 Siemens STEM Institute participants. I am excited to re-echo new ideas that I will be gaining from the Institute to my co-educators in Greensville County Public Schools.”


Epps is currently teaching Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus at Greensville County High School, along with MTE and Business Mathematics at Southside Virginia Community College.




Leading the way in STEM education

 The May 6 Daily Press editorial ("Fuel for a rising tide") noted that "to compete in a global economy, our public education system needs to include greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math ("STEM") education."

The editorial then asks, "School Boards, are you listening?"

The answer from the Newport News School Board is that we are not only listening, but have been strategically using limited resources and partnering with local businesses and organization to lead the way in STEM education. Here are a few examples:

• Using one-time federal stimulus funding, Newport News Public Schools (NNPS) renovated all middle and high school science labs and revised the science curriculum to take advantage of the 21st century facilities now available to our students. Science is now approached in a hands-on, problem-solving manner that prepares students to apply that knowledge in today's career fields.

• Heritage High School is part of the Peninsula-wide Governor's Academy for Innovation, Technology and Engineering.

• NNPS has formed strong partnerships with many area organizations to promote STEM education. NNPS and Newport News Shipbuilding, NASA Langley, Jefferson Lab, to name a few partners, are working hard to provide students with experience in STEM careers.

• To promote interest in engineering and other STEM fields, Newport News Shipbuilding partnered with NNPS in April to host the first Egg Drop Engineering Competition for middle and high school students. According to Newport News Shipbuilding's Career Pathways Manager Jennifer McClain, "Our partnership gives the shipyard the opportunity to provide input in preparing students for STEM careers."

• The Denbigh High School Aviation Academy has built a strong partnership with NASA Langley. According to NASA Langley's Head of Education Roger Hathaway, "By addressing STEM needs now and teaching our kids to be problem solvers, students will go on to address needs at not only NASA, but also Jefferson Lab, the shipyard and needs across the nation."

• NNPS partnered with the Newport News Education Foundation, Jefferson Lab, the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, and the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development in March to hold the first-ever STEM Summit on the Peninsula to raise awareness of the need for STEM education and encourage the business community to help grow the STEM initiative.

• NNPS recently won three competitive STEM-related grants from the Virginia Department of Education in partnership with Jefferson Lab, University of Virginia, Radford, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Longwood.

The above reflects only a small portion of the STEM initiative in Newport News Public Schools. NNPS also has strong Career Pathways and magnet school programs that align with STEM subjects. With a solid STEM foundation in our schools, the goal now is to join forces with more organizations to build a world-class STEM initiative.

The need for community-wide involvement was put succinctly by STEM Summit participant Dr. Deborah George Wright, vice president of workforce development at Thomas Nelson Community College:

"Preparing a STEM-ready population of young people who can succeed now and in the future is a team sport that requires players in public education, business, higher education and local government, said Wright. "NNPS has put together a team of partners that is among the best anywhere and is reaping rewards for our students, our economy, and our region."





Obama Adviser Praises U.Va.'s STEM Education and Research Efforts 

Speaking on a visit to the University of Virginia, John Holdren, President Obama's chief science and technology adviser, said the research being done at the nation's universities is a key engine in the drive for economic recovery.


Holdren, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, addressed a standing-room-only crowd Thursday. Earlier, he toured several laboratories in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and College of Arts & Sciences, where he saw work of professors and students that is producing breakthrough advancements.


During the tour, Holdren witnessed tools for early tumor detection in a chemistry lab studying microfluidics, the development of new nano-magnetic technology for mobile phones and laptop computers in a nanotechnology lab in Wilsdorf Hall, cutting-edge battery and low-power electronics technology in Rice Hall, and 3D fabrication printers in a mechanical engineering lab that could help bring manufacturing back to the United States.


Holdren also talked with faculty and students from across the University in the new OpenGrounds studio, and observed that interdisciplinary work will be critical for imagining future discoveries and making new inventions.


"So many of the things that the President and I talk about in the White House are actually happening on the Grounds of this university," Holdren later told a capacity crowd in Rice Hall's Olsson Auditorium and others who listened from the lobby.Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon introduced Holdren.


"Inspiration is powerful," said Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research, who hosted the visit. "It is the key to educating the next Einsteins and Edisons, who will invent our future. Dr. Holdren's talk undoubtedly inspired many at U.Va. and students from surrounding high schools to follow their dreams in science and engineering.


"We were delighted to host Dr. Holdren at U.Va., and look forward to connecting U.Va. initiatives with White House programs. It was very gratifying for our research community to hear Dr. Holdren link so many U.Va. programs to real impact and social relevance for the country. This is truly science serving humanity."


Obama keenly understands the importance of both basic science and technology, in regard to education, new knowledge creation and economic development, Holdren said. One of the White House's main technology initiatives is to make U.S. manufacturing a key part of the economic recovery, he said. At the same time, he said, the president is passionate about inspiring the next generation of students to "think of the discoveries out there for you to make, if you reach for the stars."


Holdren said he also wants to work more on translating discoveries at universities into innovation and new ventures, spurring the economy and creating jobs.


He praised U.Va. for its merger of classroom theory and real-world, experience-based education, adding that making discoveries in a laboratory is exciting and memorable for students. A question from the audience asked whether a transformation of U.S. higher education to a more research-based format would be effective and inspiring for students.


Holdren's answer was a resounding, "Yes – we know this works better!"


The White House also wants to work on increasing the number of public-private partnerships, Holdren said. He quoted the president as saying, "Our challenges are so big and our resources so limited, we can't afford not to collaborate."


Holdren added that Obama wants to continue investing in education and research in the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "We're not going to win the future," Holdren said, again recalling the president's words, "if we don't make these investments."


Despite the economic situation in the country today, Holdren said he remained hopeful. "We face huge challenges, but we also have huge opportunities," he said.


Informed that U.Va. has produced a seven-to-one return on research investment for biomedical engineering research in the U.Va. Coulter Program, a clearly impressed Holdren said he "will report those numbers" back to Obama.


Addressing the pending increase in student loan interest rates, Holdren said he does not want future American scientists to be hindered by an unaffordable college debt. "We have the greatest universities in the world, and we ought to make the investments needed for all committed students to gain access to them," he said.




Boeing Funds VISTA Program to Promote STEM Education


In support of [George] Mason’s efforts to promote education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), The Boeing Company will provide $225,000 over a three-year period to the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement(VISTA).

Lianne Stein, vice president for global corporate citizenship at Boeing, recently visited Mason and presented the gift to Mason Provost Peter Stearns; Mark Ginsberg, dean of the College of Education and Human Development(CEHD); and Donna R. Sterling, director of the VISTA program.

“We greatly appreciate Boeing’s investment in a program that has the potential to impact nearly every student in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” says Ginsberg. “With their support, we will be better able to build an infrastructure for effective science teaching and learning that will prepare students for successful careers in the STEM fields.”

The five-year VISTA program focuses on high-need (high-poverty, high-minority) schools to improve science teaching and student learning throughout Virginia. VISTA is dedicated to professional development and research in science for elementary teachers and secondary teachers, science coordinators and university science education faculty.

In addition, VISTA will expand upon and validate prior research and active-learning programs conducted within CEHD and Mason’s Center for Restructuring Education in Science and Technology (CREST) over the past 15 years.

The project is a partnership that includes 47 Virginia school districts, six universities and the Virginia Department of Education. University partners are the College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and James Madison University. The project is funded primarily by a $28.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the Investing in Innovation (i3) program with additional corporate and private support, including the contributions of The Boeing Company.

“Mason’s VISTA initiative to enhance science teaching and student learning across Virginia is the type of program that is important to continued innovation and economic growth,” says Stein. “This program will help provide students with some of the critical skills needed for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

In addition to presenting the gift, Boeing representatives learned more about the VISTA program and visited a science lab where VISTA students and teachers work together in a classroom setting.