Office of the Governor of Iowa

Governor Branstad


Lt. Gov. Reynolds announces statewide STEM Advisory Council at Iowa Education Summit

July 26, 2011

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today announced the formation of a new education advisory council- the Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council. The announcement was made this morning at Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds’ Iowa Education Summit.

The 2011 Iowa STEM Roadmap, produced by state STEM experts convened by the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership, cited a lack of vision and commitment resulting in gaps and redundancies, inefficiency and inequity.  The new advisory council will work to grow Iowa’s commitment to STEM, establish a vision and maximize Iowa’s potential.

“With the 2011 Iowa STEM Roadmap as a framework, the goals of the Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Advisory Council should include dramatically raising student achievement in STEM, better preparing math and science teachers, and mapping STEM education to economic development so we foster more innovation in research and entrepreneurship,” said Reynolds.

The Governor’s STEM Advisory council will consist of members from a variety of sectors including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, biotechnology, clean energy, engineering, health care and information technology. Others will represent education institutions, both formal and informal. And still others will be appointed from the Legislature and state agencies.

The goals for the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council highlight the crucial connection between giving children a world-class education and being able to have a world-class workforce.

“The Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Advisory Council will offer advice and make recommendations to better position Iowa’s young people and the state’s economy for the future,” Reynolds added.  “Iowa’s new STEM initiative can help Iowans create world-class schools if we all work together toward that goal.”

The text of the remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you for being here on this second day of the Iowa Education Summit. It’s my privilege to be here with you to talk about how TOGETHER we can build on Iowa’s great education heritage to give ALL Iowa students a world-class education.

Encouraging more interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is an ESSENTIAL first step.

Greater knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and math  – STEM for short – will make Iowa’s young people more competitive in the global marketplace.

They should NOT be shut out of the growing number of jobs that pay well in these exciting fields.

Students better prepared in STEM stand to energize Iowa’s workforce.

Just as important, scientific, technology and mathematical literacy are critical to being good citizens in the increasingly complex 21st century.

How well students understand science, math and technology will determine whether they make informed decisions about everything from their own health care to protecting the environment.

Starting in preschool and continuing through high school, let’s assure ALL Iowa students have opportunities that will equip them to someday pursue science, technology, engineering and math in college or career training, if that is where their interests lie.

That is why today Governor Branstad and I are announcing the new Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Advisory Council.

The new statewide STEM initiative will build on the outstanding collaborative work of the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership.

This collaboration by Iowa’s three state universities, led by the University of Northern Iowa, has worked to raise student math and science achievement.

Its successes include boosting the number of math and science majors at our public universities who plan to teach.

And it recently won a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to teach teenagers how businesses use math and science in the real world.

The Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership also has shepherded Project Lead the Way, a national pre-engineering curriculum package for middle and high school students, which is now in more than 100 Iowa schools.

It has matched math and science teachers with dozens of Iowa companies for summer internships bridging our schools and businesses.

And it supports after-school and summer camps for budding scientists and engineers in eastern Iowa, among other accomplishments.

The next step is scaling up efforts like these to reach ALL ACROSS Iowa to promote STEM education and STEM careers.

The 2011 Iowa STEM Roadmap – produced by STATE STEM experts convened by the Iowa Mathematics and Science Education Partnership – sums up why we need to think bigger:

“STEM opportunities in Iowa depend on where one might stop, and when. As a state, we lack a common vision and commitment, resulting in gaps and redundancies, inefficiency and inequity, amidst great talent and potential.”

Let’s MAKE that commitment. Let’s ESTABLISH that vision. Let’s TAP the great talent and potential that will serve our great state so well.

With the 2011 Iowa STEM Roadmap as a framework, the goals of the Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Advisory Council should include SIGNIFICANTLY raising student achievement in STEM, better preparing math and science teachers, and mapping STEM education to economic development so we foster more innovation in research and entrepreneurship.

It will be my great privilege to co-chair the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council along with University of Northern Iowa President Ben Allen.

Governor Branstad soon will appoint the other members of the Council, who will represent a variety of sectors, including advanced manufacturing, agribusiness, biotechnology, clean energy, engineering, health care and information technology.

Others will represent education institutions, both formal and informal. And still others will be appointed from the Legislature and state agencies.

The goals for the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council highlight the crucial connection between giving children a world-class education and being able to brag about having a world-class workforce.

This CAN be done. States that put in place the right policies have made IMPRESSIVE progress and Iowa can do that, too.

Though Iowa once was a top performer in mathematics, today we are not ALWAYS providing the math education all students really deserve.

Start with Iowa’s fourth-graders. In 2009, 41 percent scored proficient or above in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That’s a little higher than the national average. But it is far below the 56 percent average of the top three states — Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire.

Likewise, in eighth-grade math in 2009 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 34 percent of Iowa students scored proficient or above, but the top three states — Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey — averaged 48 percent.

A coalition of corporate CEOs, called Change the Equation, released those statistics as it pushes for stronger STEM education nationwide.

But please keep this in mind: It’s not enough for Iowa to become the top-performing education state again. Our schools must be competitive with the top-performing school systems around the world.

Iowa’s recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards in math bolsters Iowa math standards, but that alone won’t be enough.

We need to strengthen Iowa’s science standards, too, and adopt strong matching state assessments for science as well as math.

We must figure out how to increase the number of highly qualified math and science teachers in middle and high school classrooms.

Top math and science teachers are in short supply because math and science majors can easily find better paying careers.

How can we recruit more of those majors to teaching, and bring in more math and science professionals eager to teach part-time?

Elementary teachers also need a stronger background in math and science. Children should have lots of inquiry-based math and science instruction that makes them want to learn more.

Don’t blame teachers for this. Most are extraordinarily dedicated. My daughter Jessica teaches first grade in Creston, so I hear frequently from her about the challenges teachers meet.

But the system often does too little to prepare and support teachers. More professional development is needed on how to make math and science lessons engaging. So is more time to collaborate with colleagues on how to help students who are behind.

As the Advisory Council collaborates with the public and private sectors to promote STEM, the possibilities are promising.

STEM-based businesses could work with schools to make the science curriculum more relevant.

Companies could offer more internships that allow students to learn as much outside the classroom as they do at school. This is under way at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, where high school students who already have computer programming skills work with the company’s engineers full time during the summer and part-time during the school year. During these paid internships, they learn technical skills as well as skills in team work and communications – in other words, they get  real-world, in-depth experience.

And just last week, the World Food Prize Foundation and Pioneer Hi-Bred President Paul Schickler together with Governor Branstad announced that each high school in Iowa will be invited to annually select a top science student to be named a Borlaug Scholar in honor of  the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug.

Those youngsters will have the opportunity to learn more about hunger and global food security at Iowa State University, and 75 will go on to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute in Des Moines each October.

At our state universities, more student interest in STEM fields could be generated by adding summer research fellowships for high school and undergraduate students. Nationwide, 15 percent of bachelor’s degrees are conferred in STEM fields compared to 12 percent in Iowa.

Scientific innovation has made this country great, and Iowa should play a more prominent role going forward.

How, for example, could Iowa make the most of its potential in the biosciences in specialized niche areas?

A March report by Battelle urged stepping up investment in Iowa’s academic bioscience research and development base so our bioscience industry cluster is globally competitive.

We must also look at how we can strengthen other drivers of our economy, including agribusiness, advanced manufacturing and financial services.

The Governor’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Advisory Council will offer advice and make recommendations to better position Iowa’s young people and the state’s economy for the future.

It will work with schools, community colleges and Iowa’s public and private colleges and universities, with parents and community organizations, with business and industry.

Iowa’s new STEM initiative can help Iowans create world-class schools if we all work together toward that goal.

My fellow Iowans, with YOUR help we will make the most of this great opportunity. Thank you, God bless you, and the great State of Iowa.

For more information, please visit www.governor.iowa.gov or www.ltgovernor.iowa.gov.


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