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Can Your Child's Teacher Teach?

Mon, 09/13/2010 - 1:32pm
Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Celebrating its 30th Anniversary, the SME Education Foundation, a catalyst for innovative education, funds programs delivered by educators trained and credentialed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

DEARBORN, Mich., September 13, 2010 — Education is an expensive investment. Historically, it has been a pre-packaged template of courses offered without warranty protection, or a money- back guarantee. The SME Education Foundation and its industry partner, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a national non-profit organization that partners with middle schools and high schools, think nothing should short-change a child's education.

People who have lost their jobs, homes, and any hope of maintaining their financial security are adamant about getting a return on their investment for their child's education. As parents monitor the emergence of a redefined global economy and the long-term advantages of a technology-based education, they know their children's future is critically dependent on the skills of their teachers and are taking a harder look at their credentials and ability to teach.

An AP story published in the Chicago Tribune (9/5) reported, "By 2018, the government forecasts a net total of 15.3 million new jobs. Nearly all of the new jobs will be in the service sector. The nation's 78 million baby boomers will need more health care services as they age, for example. Demand for medical jobs will rise. And innovations in high technology and alternative energy are likely to spur growth in occupations that don't yet exist."

In 2006, Glen H. Pearson, president of the SME Education Foundation, and director, Manufacturing Research & Engineering, Eastman Kodak Company (ret.), working with his board of directors, made a fortuitous decision, a partnership with Project Lead The Way (PLTW). Says Pearson, "Our board, industry partners and donors represent a broad cross-section of industry and academia. We knew we had to attract young minds to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics early. And we had experience running summer programs. Working with Project Lead The Way, we strengthened the curriculum, and led the students into the school year excited about STEM. Their mission and educational standards mirror our own. In celebrating our 30th Anniversary this year, I can say we've given new meaning to the word "Foundation."

SME Education Foundation director, Bart A. Aslin says, "The next ten years will be pivotal to the Foundation as our funding efforts broaden to reflect educational programs supporting technical advancements. We know that the positive influences of astute parents and well-trained teachers will help children take advantage of exciting opportunities that will prepare them for a technology-based economy."

The PLTW program introduces basic engineering concepts to fifth and sixth graders using a concentrated, standardized and rigorous curriculum which emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. Academically prepared, students then move into PLTW's highly successful Gateway to Technology Program, a middle-school pre-engineering program.

In 2006, the SME Education Foundation introduced 50 academies in 13 states. This year, thanks to donor funding, 237 Gateway Academies were held in 34 states reaching 4,800 students. PLTW-trained teachers have been able to encourage an increasingly more diverse group of students to consider careers as scientists, technology experts, engineers, mathematicians, healthcare providers, and researchers in an effort to enable the United States to compete favorably in the global economy.

Credentialed teachers are education's traffic cops – evaluating, preparing and directing children for what is becoming a new world economy. Teachers and guidance counselors at schools that offer PLTW courses are able to access a nationwide support network comprised of PLTW staff, master teachers, affiliate directors and state leaders who are Department of Education employees. PLTW has 36 affiliated colleges and universities that provide teacher training. They also offer college credits for some of the courses. Business partners offer grants and internships.

Since 1997, PLTW has trained approximately 13,000 teachers to teach its courses. PLTW supports teachers with an ongoing professional development model based upon its curriculum. Its Virtual Academy, a robust online resource to which teachers may turn for guidance, is also available to non-PLTW teachers. PLTW has relationships with more than 100 colleges and universities. Of these, 36 offer credit to students for completion of PLTW courses.

School districts recommend teachers for participation in PLTW's professional development program. Selected teachers are required to have a strong math background especially in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and statistics. PLTW considers engineering, math and science teachers their prime candidates.

While poor test scores and low graduation rates are now triggering entrepreneurial investment in online educational products, standardized testing and outlining proficiency goals, and more cooperation between parents, educators, administrators and state and local government to improve educational standards, those visiting www.CareerMe.org and www.ManufacturingisCool.com will see the SME Education Foundation has already paved the way.

The concept of the Gateway Academy was created in a partnership between the SME Education Foundation and Project Lead The Way, a not-for-profit organization that promotes engineering courses for middle and high school students. In 2010, the SME Education Foundation held 237 Gateway Academies and reached over 4,800 students in 34 states. For more information about the Gateway Academy program, contact Project Lead The Way at info@pltw.org.

The SME Education Foundation is committed to inspiring, supporting and preparing the next generation of manufacturing engineers and technologists in the advancement of manufacturing education. Created by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in 1979, the SME Education Foundation has provided more than $31 million since 1980 in grants, scholarships and awards through its partnerships with corporations, organizations, foundations, and individual donors. Visit www.smeef.org. Also visit www.CareerMe.org, a new website supporting advanced manufacturing careers, and our award-winning Web site for young people – www.ManufacturingisCool.com.

Questions or comments may be directed to the SME Education Foundation by phone 313.425.3300, or email foundation@sme.org.

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