Arizona governor says students need math, science skills to compete

October 20, 2007

By hammersmith

[Source: Ray Parker, Arizona Republic] — Gov. Janet Napolitano told educators on Friday that Arizona students need to learn more about math and science to compete in the global business arena. She called for supporting efforts already under way to increase high-school math and science requirements to better prepare graduates for the state’s biotechnology industry. “No state in the country has a greater rate of growth in this area than the state of Arizona,” Napolitano said at the Arizona Science Teachers Association conference in Mesa.

The drumbeat has gotten louder for shoring up math and science education in Arizona. Last week, the state Board of Education heard from educators and business leaders who overwhelmingly backed raising the standards. The proposal calls for increasing math credits from two to four and science from two to three to graduate. The tougher classes could begin with freshmen in 2008, when they would be required to take three math credits, and have full implementation with freshmen in 2009 with four. “If we want more STEM-qualified (science, technology, engineering and math) students to go on to higher education, then a diploma needs to mean more than you can pass (the AIMS test),” Napolitano said.

For the first time this school year, Arizona students in Grades 4, 8, and 10 will be tested on state science standards, which will be added to the reading, writing and math tests of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, or AIMS. High-school students are not required to pass the science test to graduate.

About 450 Arizona science teachers met for two days at the Mesa Convention Center where they shared teaching ideas and heard from industry and government speakers. Napolitano’s remarks served as an opportunity to highlight her efforts throughout the educational system, including passage of voluntary, free all-day kindergarten and her efforts to streamlineeducation from preschool to graduate school. She received applause from the science teachers when discussing the new $2.5 million in STEM grants to schools, which will be available in early 2008, and another $2.2 million in college-loan forgiveness for math and science teachers. That struck a chord with Mayer science teacher Emily Kipp, who came from Connecticut to teach at the Orme School. “It’s exciting to be starting from the ground up,” she said.