Langevin Highlights RI Program to Push Math/Science Education Legislation

Apr 29, 2013 Issues: Education, Rhode Island

As a lead advocate for expanding opportunities for students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) visited Deering Middle School in West Warwick today to outline the benefits of a proposal he has developed with Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) to support grants that fund hands-on math and science learning. The bill Langevin and Ryan have introduced, the Innovation Inspiration Grant Program, would help fund innovative STEM programs like some of the efforts underway at the 21st Century Community Learning Center that the YMCA of Greater Providence runs with Deering.

Langevin, who co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus, began the visit with a roundtable discussion on improving STEM education with students, school administrators, including West Warwick Superintendent Ken Sheehan, Deering Principal Brian Dillon, and leaders of the YMCA of Greater Providence, including CEO Jim Berson. Following the conversation, the group toured the after-school activities happening at Deering, including a robotics program.

“I commend Ken Sheehan, Brian Dillon, Jim Benson and all of those involved with the 21st Century Community Learning Center in West Warwick for their commitment to finding innovative ways to engage their students,” said Langevin. “Anyone who had the opportunity I did to hear fifth grader William Banks explain the LEGO robotic program or listen to his schoolmates discuss their efforts to improve a toy rocket launcher would be impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm for learning. The Innovation Inspiration Grant Program is needed to reward partnerships like the one between Deering and YMCA, which are critical to preparing our next generation of workers to compete in the global economy.”

Langevin and Ryan’s legislation establishes a grant process for states and schools to fund alternative STEM programs. The bill increases access to non-traditional efforts needed to complement regular classroom activity to better engage students in these subject areas and help them understand the practical application of their studies. Grants would be available to ensure teachers have required hands-on training, as well as to allow instruction outside of school hours. In addition, resources could be put toward partnering with business and industry to support participation in nonprofit STEM competitions.

The YMCA 21st Century Community Learning Center at Deering Middle School has been recognized as a leader in youth development with an Excellence Award from Rhode Island After School Plus Alliance. Many of the 475 children served this school year are from low income families, with 51 percent eligible for free or reduced price lunches. According to the YMCA, during this school year, about one quarter of the participants went from below proficient to proficient or higher on their Math NECAP tests.

The Department of Labor has found that a growing and improving STEM workforce will be a major key to the United States’ competitiveness. It is expected that employment in computer and mathematical science occupations will grow more than twice as fast as all other occupations in the economy. However, our education system is not meeting this need. In 2010, among high school graduates who took the ACT college entrance exam, only 43 percent met the mathematics College Readiness Benchmark and only 29 percent attained that level in science.