White House, New Nonprofit Push Science Education

A new nonprofit organization that will encourage U.S. students to study science and technology has earned praise from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama on Thursday announced Change the Equation, a nonprofit focused on improving education in science, technology, engineering and math. The new organization was founded by U.S. astronaut Sally Ride, former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt and Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York.

"Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America's role as the world's engine of discovery and innovation," Obama said in a statement. "I applaud Change the Equation for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America's leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math."

Change the Equation is a response to Obama's early 2009 call to elevate math and science education as a national priority. The organization has about 100 CEOs as its members and a first-year budget of US$5 million, the White House statement said.

The new organization's main goals are to improve math and science teaching across the country, to inspire students to study and be enthused about math and science, and to secure a long-term commitment to math and science education from U.S. residents, the statement said.

Change the Equation plans to launch copies of successful math and science programs in 100 high-need schools in its first year, the White House said. Those new programs will allow more students to engage in robotics competitions, improve professional development for teachers, and increase the number of students who take advanced placement classes in math and science, the statement said.

Obama also announced several new partnerships focused on improving so-called STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) education:

-- A coalition of 350 science centers and museums, with help from the Association of Science-Technology Centers and local corporate and foundation support, has pledged to offer 2 million hours of science enrichment to at least 25,000 students in all 50 states, with an emphasis on girls and minorities.

-- The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, working with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), will fund the creation of 30 new hands-on learning centers across the country. MacArthur and IMLS will provide more than $4 million in planning grants over a three-year period and will be joined by a number of partners such as the Knight, Pearson, Mozilla, and Grable Foundations, and the Chicago and New York Community Trusts.

-- The Entertainment Software Association, Microsoft and Advanced Micro Devices, working with the American Library Association, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and E-Line Media, will launch two annual competitions focused on both playing and designing games for STEM learning. The Youth Prize, with $50,000 in prize money, will be for students from fifth to eighth grade and will target students in high-poverty areas. The Developer Prize will be open to anyone and focus on STEM games for young students.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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