Technology Groups Vow To Aid in Education Reforms
By Peter West
Three national organizations that represent technology-based industries have begun to devise "action plans" that will support efforts to aid in the reform of mathematics, science, and technology education.
At an unusual meeting held last month in Boulder, Colo., members of the coalitions met jointly for the first time to discuss industry's role in improving science and technical education and the stops that can be taken to spark reform on the local level.
"Concerned groups must sit down at the table and decide what it takes to make the necessary changes and industry must be at that table," Charles R. Puglia, of the National Science Foundation, told the assembled delegates.
The meeting brought together representatives of the National Industry Council for Science Education, an arm of the Maryland- based Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education; the Corporate Council for Science and Math Education, a branch of the National Research Council; and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/Corporate Affiliates Program, a division of the Colorado based National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The three organizations collectively represent more than 50 leading companies in science- and technology based industry, and include many of the nation's major employers.
"Clearly, American industry has a stake in the education of this country's young people," Robert Fitch, N.I.C.S.E's chairman and the former scientific officer for S.C. Johnson Wax, told the delegates. The forum provided the first opportunity for the organizations to focus on the steps needed to bring about systemic change in the way young people are prepared for careers in math and science.
At the heart of the effort is a four-part plan that emphasizes the building of alliances between schools and industry; the development of training materials that support industry participation in those alliances; the creation of a public- awareness campaign to develop support for and encourage parental and community participation in, the reform of science and math education; and the development of a national vision of what "reformed" math and science curricula would look like.
A key element of the strategic plan is an effort to produce a national training program that will help prepare scientists and engineers to develop and operate alliances between schools and industry.
The Center for Alliances in Science and Mathematics, which is spearheading the effort, has been established with seed money from the N.I.C.S.E. and the Triangle Coalition to direct the initiative. Permanent funding for the project is being sought from the N.S.F.
"We would like to see an alliance in place in every one of the 16,000 school districts, bringing the support of industry to every school and every teacher," said Manerr Kennedy, chairman of the Colorado Alliance for Science and the effort's organizer.