MT. JULIET — Gov. Phil Bredesen on Friday announced a new Tennessee education partnership aimed at improving education in science, technology, engineering and math — known as STEM.
The Department of Education and local school systems will team up with national science nonprofit Battelle, which co-manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to establish a statewide network of programs geared at STEM education.
The maneuver is Tennessee’s latest attempt to win a portion of the Obama administration’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top fund, a competitive grant to be awarded to only six to eight states, Bredesen said.
“Over the past few years in Battelle’s home state of Ohio, they’ve developed a statewide STEM learning network that now includes dozens of colleges, more than 80 school districts and more than 300 businesses and community partners,” Bredesen said.
He said Tennessee’s partnership is still under development.
It will provide direct opportunities for students to participate in science by broadening the chances for high school students to obtain science internships at locations such as Oak Ridge, said Ron Townsend, executive vice president of the global laboratory operation at Battelle.
He said the group’s goal is to create the type of STEM programs that exist in other states.
“This network will provide resources to share best practices in STEM education, build leadership and training programs and provide financial and in-kind commitment to make this happen.”
The scope of the partnership will depend in part on the state’s success to obtain the federal Race to the Top funds.
Tennessee is considered a top contender locally and nationally because of an elaborate student data tracking system, recent changes to the state’s curriculum and help from professional grant writers courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
To secure the state’s estimated $250 million in funding, the state must draft a plan to radically reform education and get local districts, teachers unions and board members to support it. The application deadline is in mid-January.
Friday’s announcement was made in a science lab at Mt. Juliet High School where several students, teachers and administrators gathered after a ceremony to honor Mt. Juliet High School graduate Barry Wilmore. Wilmore piloted the Atlantis Space Shuttle last month to the International Space Station.