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Gillibrand Announces Innovative Education Agenda to Boost Stem Proficiency for Long Island Students

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Location: Plainview, NY

Standing at John F. Kennedy High School, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by the Long Island STEM Hub and dozens of Long Island students who are part of the school's engineering and robotics team, announced today her innovative education agenda to encourage more youths, especially women, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), bolster engineering education programs across Long Island's elementary, middle, and high schools and draw more STEM teachers to educate children in high-need areas.

With eight of nine of the fastest growing industries requiring math and science proficiency and women, minority, and low-income students underrepresented in STEM-related careers, Senator Gillibrand is pushing for federal measures to close the achievement gap and bring more STEM-related programs, such as the Long Island STEM Hub's Career Academies, to schools across Long Island. With the success of JFK High School's targeted STEM curriculum and engineering program, the Hub will be launching an additional career academy in engineering next school year. Bolstering the Long Island STEM Hub's efforts could help reach thousands of students across Nassau and Suffolk Counties to achieve the same goals and ensure that students leave school prepared with the education they need for the high-tech jobs of the future, and launch successful careers right here on Long Island.

Women, who represent nearly half of our workforce, make up only 26 percent of the STEM workforce. Minorities are also drastically underrepresented in STEM fields -- African Americans and Hispanics together account for about 30 percent of our workforce, but make up only 7 percent of scientists and engineers. Together, African Americans and Hispanics receive less than 5 percent of all doctorates in mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer science. Additionally, students from economically disadvantaged communities struggle to access STEM opportunities, with the vast majority of federal resources channeled into higher education institutions where these populations are significantly underrepresented.

"Long Island is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities, a world-class workforce and innovative career opportunities," Senator Gillibrand said. "But if we're going to keep our competiveness in the global economy, and keep our skilled workforce in the region, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with getting more talented students -- from diverse backgrounds - into the STEM pipeline at a younger age, expanding engineering education, and bringing more STEM teachers into high-need communities. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It's our job to make sure they are prepared."

"The future belongs to those who are equipped and prepared to handle its challenges and opportunities," said Dr. Lorna R. Lewis, Superintendent, Plainview- Old Bethpage CSD. "The Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District has had a tradition of support for Science Research and engineering-based activities, including our robotics program, as we recognize that they are essential to our mission of preparing critical thinkers and problem solvers for the world they will enter as working citizens. We are extremely honored to have Senator Gillibrand visit John F. Kennedy High School to emphasize the importance of STEM education throughout the region. Her bill will reinforce and strengthen the work that needs to be accomplished in schools if we are serious about remaining competitive as a nation."

"Improving STEM education for all students is an economic imperative," said Cheryl Davidson, co-steward, LI STEM Hub. "Employees at every level and in every industry will require STEM skills yet, too few students pursue careers in STEM. The LI STEM Hub is grateful to Senator Gillibrand for proposing legislation that will allow us to increase the number of districts participating in Career Academies, offering relevant learning opportunities to every level of student, resulting in strengthened college and career success in STEM."

"The Long Island STEM Hub, part of a state and national initiative, is a coalition of industry and academic partners committed to preparing students for college and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) on Long Island. The LI STEM Hub is aligned to regional economic strategies, which brings high growth industry partners and academic institutions together to focus on career awareness, curriculum relevancy and workplace learning while improving access and persistence of underrepresented students," said Joseph Cabral, SVP/CHRO for North Shore-LIJ Health System and board of champion member of the Long Island STEM Hub. "Senator Gillibrand clearly recognizes the national and regional importance of strengthening opportunities to expand career readiness in STEM fields, resulting in student success and economic vitality."

The Long Island STEM Hub currently supports 6 school districts who utilize the Career Academy model, and the interest is growing. A Career Academy is a small learning community that operates within an existing school to link selected high-growth industry themes to the core academic curriculum. Using NYS Standards, Career Academies is a proven, effective educational model that aligns to the workforce needs of the region while it prepares students for college and careers.

Known as the "POBOTS," a team of JFK high school students who are currently preparing to enter the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition later this year unveiled their robot today which they engineered from scratch. For more than a decade, JFK high school students have participated in regional, statewide and national STEM competitions. The robotics team has placed both regionally and nationally in previous years. In 2007, two senior students involved in the school's Independent Research program - Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff -- won first prize at the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology.

JFK High School is part of the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, which has exceptional student curriculums in place that integrate academic rigor with a pathway towards STEM-related careers. The district participates in the Long Island STEM Hub's "career academy" designation, with an emphasis on health care and engineering. The Hub, which works to support and leverage resources by providing a centralized information source for school districts, businesses, and worker retraining operations to improve STEM education, is one of ten STEM hubs across New York State.

To spark greater student interest in STEM, Senator Gillibrand announced three key proposals as part her innovative education agenda. Under Gillibrand's legislation, the Long Island Stem Hub, in partnership with local schools, would be able to apply for federal grants to strengthen STEM education and boost student achievement in STEM.

Senator Gillibrand's STEM Education Agenda

1. Providing STEM Education and Access to Girls and Minorities

Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation called the STEM Gateways Act that would provide funding through the U.S. Department of Education to help schools implement rigorous STEM academics, with a focus on reaching underrepresented groups. Selected elementary and secondary schools in partnership with community colleges, non-profits, and other partner organizations would be able to use federal funding to support STEM, classroom activities, extra-curricular and after-school learning, summer programs, student tutoring and mentoring, and professional development for educators. Such focused efforts on expanding STEM opportunities for girls, minorities and economically disadvantaged students will broaden and strengthen the pipeline of American STEM workers.

2. Bolstering Engineering Education Programs in Nation's Elementary, Middle, and High Schools

Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation that would help boost engineering education programs in the nation's elementary, middle and high schools. The Educating Tomorrow's Engineers Act (ETEA) would help increase student achievement and interest in innovative, hands-on learning through engineering design skills and disciplines by removing barriers at the federal level and building upon existing federal education policy in several key areas. Legislation would expand student exposure to engineering design skills by requiring states to ensure engineering design skills and practices are integrated into their science standards, provide instructors tools and support to effectively teach engineering, and enable schools to target more resources toward engineering education by expanding the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program to include all STEM subjects, including engineering and computer science. Legislation would expand both the 21st Century Learning Centers program, which provides funds for after school activities, and the Rural and Low-Income School program to include program funding for all STEM subjects.

Gillibrand's bill would also bolster federal research in the area of engineering education by amending the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 to include all STEM subject areas for the first time under The Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also directs IES to specifically support key studies and evaluations related to K-12 engineering education, including identifying best practices and promising innovations.

3. Produce More STEM Teachers

Our nation faces a stark shortage of math and science teachers to prepare our students. In fact, the U.S. will need an estimated 283,000 math and science teachers in secondary schools by 2015, according to the Business-Higher Education Forum 2006 Report. The lack of STEM teachers in low-income schools widens racial and gender gaps among our high-tech workforce. To help equip all of our classrooms with the teachers we need to train more students to be the high-tech innovators of the future, Senator Gillibrand will re-introduce the National STEM Education Tax Incentive for Teachers Act, which would provide STEM teachers a tax credit to cover 10 percent of their undergraduate tuition -- up to $1,000 each year. STEM teachers serving in high-need schools would be able to deduct up to $1,500 each year. This legislation is a critical tool to attract STEM teachers to low-income schools and help increase the number of low-income students succeeding in STEM classes and pursuing STEM careers.


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