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Chicago: A Systems Approach to K-12 STEM Education

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

On Thursday, June 30, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Research and Science Education Subcommittee held a hearing to examine how the private, public, and nonprofit sectors in an urban K-12 system can work together to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education both inside and outside of the classroom. This is the third hearing the Subcommittee has held on STEM education this year.

Because many decisions in education happen at the local level, the Committee took a case-study look at how STEM partnerships and systemic initiatives are working in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the third-largest school district in America. “Chicago is playing a leading role in bringing diverse stakeholders together to get students excited about STEM subjects.  It is our job to learn from these successes and provide STEM educators with the best possible information and tools available,” said Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL).

Lipinski added: “…we have repeatedly heard that innovation is key to maintaining a high standard of living for all Americans, and that we need more teachers and more graduates in the STEM fields if we want our country to continue to lead in the global economy. But we know there is no panacea and no one entity that can solve this alone.  Reform of our STEM education system will require coordination on multiple fronts and across many diverse stakeholders.”

Below are links to witnesses’ testimonies:

•    Ms. Maggie Daley, Chair of After School Matters (ASM), discussed the important role of informal education and what ASM is doing to teach and engage young people in STEM fields.  
•    Dr. Wanda Ward, Acting Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation (NSF), testified about the NSF’s role in providing support for systemic approaches to STEM education.
•    Mr. Michael Lach, Officer of Teaching and Learning at Chicago Public Schools, discussed the successes and challenges of STEM education partnerships and initiatives in Chicago.
•    Dr. Donald Wink, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Chemistry, and Director of Graduate Studies in Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois, discussed the university’s role in helping with K-12 STEM education, especially through NSF support.
•    Ms. Katherine Pickus, Divisional Vice President of Global Citizenship and Policy at Abbott, testified about the importance of a STEM literate workforce to Abbott and about the role that Abbott scientists play in improving STEM education in their own communities.


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