Back-to-School Bus Tour Highlights Importance of Connecting America’s Classrooms to the Future and Supporting STEM Teacher Leadership and Education

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Back-to-School Bus Tour Highlights Importance of Connecting America’s Classrooms to the Future and Supporting STEM Teacher Leadership and Education

September 13, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education today announced new resources to support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher leadership and to build on work by local districts and states to improve teaching and student learning outcomes through the effective use of technology in the classroom.

“All students deserve a high-quality education, complete with access to digital learning, which prepares them to succeed in our 21st century, knowledge-based economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “And supporting teacher leadership is critical to improving education for all of our nation’s students, particularly those students who are often underserved and underrepresented.”

King highlighted the announcements during his “Opportunity Across America” back-to-school bus tour stop in Bristol and will do so in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

When President Obama entered office in 2009, he had a comprehensive vision for improving our education system to advance our children’s opportunities and success. Preparing students for college and 21st century careers by enhancing technology and improving and supporting STEM education in our nation’s schools are among the Administration’s priorities to building a world-class education.

In our rapidly changing, increasingly connected world, technology is a powerful tool not only to enhance but also to transform teaching and learning. Technology can provide opportunities for educators to collaborate and share best practices as well as to personalize learning to meet students’ unique needs and interests, including students who may be disadvantaged or geographically isolated.

Supporting STEM Leadership and Education

Preparing students with 21st century skills includes access to a high-quality STEM education. To support those efforts, the Department today announced a new website—Building STEM Teacher Leadership—to provide educators, administrators, state officials and their partners with practical information and guidance on planning, implementing and improving STEM teacher leadership and education programs in their schools and districts. The new website is one of many resources and programs under the Obama Administration that promote and strengthen STEM teacher leadership. Other efforts include:

  • Dozens of competitions for federal grants that prioritize STEM teaching and learning. For example, the administration created the Investing in Innovation (i3) program designed to scale the implementation of innovative practices and to improve student achievement. And, in higher education, the Hispanic-Serving Institutions-STEM program is helping to increase the number of Hispanic students attaining degrees in STEM subjects.
  • Guidance to states and districts on using federal funds to support strategies that expand equity in STEM education from preschool through 12th grade.
  • A new report from the Department of Education on the future of STEM education. Tomorrow, the Department will release a report titled “STEM 2026.” The report is a perspective from a range of practitioners in education and outlines major opportunities for enhancing P-12 STEM education over the next 10 years. The report includes substantial discussions of computer science, and the importance of STEM education including computational thinking and other computer science related activities. Since 2009, more than $1 billion in philanthropic funds has been pledged in support of the Administration’s STEM efforts.
  • Hundreds of commitments such as those announced in April 2016 by the White House to promote hands-on STEM learning for our youngest learners, including resources for parents and families to incorporate STEM concepts and vocabulary into their daily activities.
  • The White House’s College Opportunity Day of Action, which provided the opportunity for college presidents, education leaders, nonprofits, and others to make more than 100 commitments to attract and retain thousands more students on a path to earn STEM degrees. Compared to when the President took office, 25,000 additional engineers are graduating college every year.
  • A White House Science Fair, which the Administration began to celebrate students who won math, science and robotics competitions. The White House also hosted a White House Maker Faire and a National Week of Making, which showcased the innovative and unique work of students and adults.
  • The President’s call to action to prepare 100,000 excellent STEM educators by 2021. More than 280 leading organizations have come together as partners in the 100Kin10 network to make over 400 measurable commitments to address this urgent need, and these commitments put us on the path to meet the President’s goal.

Connecting America’s Classrooms to the Future

The ConnectED initiative has made tremendous progress in providing our students and teachers with the tools they need to succeed in the digital age. When President Obama launched ConnectED three years ago, only 30 percent of school districts had access to high-speed broadband, leaving 40 million students without access to connectivity. Today, 20 million more students have access to high-speed broadband, and ConnectED is on track to meet the goal of connecting 99 percent of students by 2018.

In addition, companies have committed more than $2 billion worth of hardware, software, connectivity, and digital reading resources to schools to support digital transformations. One school that has benefited from these resources is Brooklyn Lab Charter in New York, New York. At an event there today, the White House will highlight new steps taken by the Open eBooks partnership, which supports ConnectED by bringing thousands of popular eBooks to students in need. The partnership is announcing a new commitment from Clever, a secure educational login platform already used in almost half of all United States K-12 schools, to provide a more streamlined way for students to access a world-class library wherever they go.

In order to build on infrastructure gains and to truly support the effective use of technology to support learning, the President announced “Future Ready” in November 2015. The Future Ready initiative empowers local leaders to drive improvements in the adoption and effective use of education technology in their schools. Twenty states, including recent additions Alabama, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, have already joined a network of “Future Ready” states that are committed to supporting their school district leaders in the transition to digital learning in their classrooms. To date, more than 2,300 superintendents across the country—representing more than 16 million students—have signed the Future Ready District Pledge and are committed to fostering and leading digital learning in their districts and sharing best practices. The Department released a personalized learning blog series and five new personalized learning stories from the field that define and highlight effective implementations of personalized learning.

As part of this year’s Opportunity Across America back-to-school bus tour, King and other Department officials will hold events touting the Administration’s key initiatives over the last eight years, highlighting the progress made to expand opportunity across the nation and the groundwork laid for continued momentum. In addition to bus stops in Bristol, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, Tennessee, the tour includes visits to the District of Columbia, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. To RSVP for stops on the tour, please email press@ed.gov. Follow the bus tour on social media at #OpportunityTour.