President also focused on early childhood STEM education in his State of the Union address.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, President Obama recognized efforts being made by the Education Department and several states to help better prepare students for science, technology engineering and math fields.
“Some of this change is hard,” Obama said. “It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test. But it’s worth it – and it’s working.”
The Race to the Top initiative – launched by the Education Department in 2009 and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – requires states that participate to have a high-quality plan to boost STEM education by improving course content and preparing more students, including underrepresented groups and women and girls, for advanced study and careers in STEM fields.
Obama said Tuesday that while those efforts have helped schools progress in preparing students with skills for the new economy, such reforms are not reaching enough kids, nor are they reaching them in time.
“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” Obama said, urging Congress to pass legislation that would help states make high-quality pre-K education available to every four-year-old. He also pledged to invest in new partnerships with states to boost pre-k education and pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders and philanthropists to help more kids access quality pre-k education.
Obama also recognized efforts to connect more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years to high-speed broadband and work with colleges and universities to make college more affordable.
Meanwhile, eight astronaut candidates, along with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and 100 students from around the Washington, D.C. area, will gather at the White House Wednesday for the second annual State of STEM address.
The SoSTEM event will include two guests who sat with First Lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday’s State of the Union address: 16-year-old Joey Hudy, who in 2012 gained national fame for demonstrating his extreme marshmallow cannon at the White House Science Fair, and Tyrone Davis, a third-year law student who in 2010 devised innovative ways for a college in North Carolina to save tens of thousands of dollars and reduce its carbon emissions by nearly 200 tons annually.