Arizona Biosciences News
Board increases graduation mandates, boosting weight of STEM grants
Business, education, and legislative leaders pleading for stronger STEM curricula got their wish Dec. 10 when the Arizona state Board of Education voted to increase high-school graduation requirements for science and math. The board's decision makes new grants for innovative educational programs and teacher-training initiatives significantly more valuable.
Business, education, and legislative leaders pleading for stronger STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curricula got their wish Dec. 10 when the Arizona state Board of Education voted to increase high-school graduation requirements in science and math. The board's decision makes new grants for innovative educational programs and teacher-training initiatives significantly more valuable.
Currently, Arizona students must take two year-long science courses and two mathematics courses—algebra I and geometry—in order to graduate. Beginning with the Class of 2012 (current eighth graders), algebra II will also be required, and for the Class of 2013, graduation will require a third year of science and a fourth year of math. The new requirements would increase the total credits needed to graduate from 20 to 22.
A student's fourth year of math under the new requirements need not be a traditional advanced course like trigonometry or brief calculus, but it must include "significant math content," as determined by the local school board. Qualifying courses might include introductions to accounting or statistics, or certain career and technology education (CTE) courses.
"In the 21st century, the majority of the jobs that pay high wages and high demand will require the kind of skills that we're putting in place," said Karen Nicodemus, board president and president of Cochise College, in the Yuma Sun.
A critique of the increased graduation requirements is that districts will struggle to find enough qualified teachers for new math and science courses. Northern Arizona University is answering that critique with the institution of its NAUTeach program, announced Dec. 10. Funded by a $3.4 million grant from ExxonMobil Corp. and the Helios Educational Foundation, NAUTeach will revamp the university's teacher-reparation program, toward a sharply increased production of math and science teachers.
Two other recently announced grants focused on workforce preparation will likewise support districts' development of a qualified STEM teacher corps and allow districts to offer additional avenues for students to meet the new graduation requirements.
Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development
Across four southern Arizona counties, a $5 million Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training will fund several educational programs under the mantle of "Innovation Frontier Arizona" (IFA). Serving Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma counties, IFA is designed to support the workforce needs of the region's industries, particularly for scientists, engineers, technicians and information and intelligence technologists.
IFA's objectives include: training roughly 50 new teachers and counselors in STEM education and career counseling; introducing around 7,000 students to these fields through science fairs and other activities; standardizing curriculum across the region's community colleges to help them grant more high-tech degrees and certificates; developing a training program with the University of Arizona's McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship for entrepreneurs unable to enroll at UA; and developing a program to increase workplace literacy of adults in border-security-related fields.
"Collaboration among partners in business, education and workforce development will lead to new opportunities for workers to gain the skills needed to pursue high-paying careers in industries demanding well-prepared talent," said Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily Stover DeRocco.
Implementation of the WIRED grant, awarded in June, was kicked off with a Nov. 28 luncheon in Tucson. It constituted the first post-award gathering of IFA members, representing some 40 corporations, chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, school districts, and other organizations. The IFA representatives were joined at the event by DeRocco, Gov. Janet Napolitano, and Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva.
"We need to recognize this next generation is competing with an economy that's global," Gov. Napolitano said in the Arizona Daily Star.
Arizona Innovative CTE Programs
On Dec. 5, state Superintendent Tom Horne announced five schools or districts, chosen from among 23 applicants as grant recipients under the Arizona Innovative CTE Programs initiative, designed to promote groundbreaking high-school level career and technology education programs. The programs will meet state-level CTE requirements, as well as provide avenues for the districts to provide options for meeting the new graduation requirements.
The grant recipients, which will split $600,000 in federal funds distributed by the state Department of Education, are East Valley Institute of Technology, Tolleson Union High School District, and Tucson Unified School District, which will institute biomedical health technologies programs; and Maricopa Unified School District and Sierra Vista Public Schools, which will institute engineering sciences programs.
For more information:
"Grant's aim: More math and science teachers," Arizona Republic, 12/11/2007
"State to require more high school math to graduate," Yuma Sun, 12/10/2007
"$5M U.S. grant to help train for Southern Arizona tech jobs," Arizona Daily Star, 11/28/2007