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$71 Million Commited to Launch the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (TSTEM) Initiative

Texas High School Project (THSP) expands its public-private funding to ensure Texas students have the skills and knowledge to pursue careers in STEM-related fields

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400
Laurey Peat
Laurey Peat + Associates, Inc.
Phone: 214.871.8787
Email: lpeat@lpapr.net

DALLAS -- The Texas High School Project (THSP)—supported by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT)—today announced the launch of the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (TSTEM) Initiative. The $71 million public-private partnership, a new effort of the THSP, will establish 35 small schools that offer focused teaching and learning opportunities in STEM subject areas and five to six STEM Centers to develop high-quality teachers and schools. The highest-quality education in these subjects is critical to workforce development in Texas and to ensuring that the United States keeps its competitive edge as a world leader in scientific and technological innovation.

“Education is the lynchpin in creating a strong workforce to bring Texas and the nation into the 21st century,” said Gov. Perry. “While gains have been made in our schools, we still have an achievement gap that will lead to an opportunity gap unless more students of all backgrounds become proficient in science, math and technology. This initiative will ensure more students have the skills they need to succeed in college and the 21st century workplace.”

While student achievement is improving in Texas, too many are not achieving at high levels. This is especially true in the areas of math and science, and for low-income and minority students. While 73 percent of white ninth graders passed the state assessment in math in 2005, only 38 percent of African American ninth graders and just 44 percent of Hispanic ninth graders passed. Texas is not alone in this struggle. The crisis in math and science education is moving to the national education agenda as all states grapple with the shortage of qualified workers in STEM fields.

“The irony is that throughout the last few decades, Texas has been a breeding ground for the technology industry, yet math and science achievement—the basic building blocks of the technology industry—is lagging, particularly among minority and economically challenged students in our state,” said Susan Dell, co-founder and chairman of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which partially funds the THSP. “We believe all children, regardless of economic circumstances or ethnicity, are capable of learning and achieving at high levels and deserve a high-quality, public education. But we also must ensure that we spark their interest early on, inspire them to set lofty goals, and expose them to the many options available, including education and career opportunities in high-tech fields.”

Launched in 2003, the THSP is founded on the belief that college-ready high school graduates ensure an educated workforce, a robust economy, and strong communities in Texas. As part of this effort, THSP is launching the TSTEM initiative to ensure Texas high school students—in particular, low-income and minority students—have the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue careers in STEM fields. The public-private partnership will create 35 Texas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Academies over the next five years. TSTEM Academies will serve grades six through 12 and enroll at least 25,000 low-income and minority students annually at full capacity. This new kind of school will be designed to spark students’ interest in math and science by engaging them in real-world learning activities.

The 35 TSTEM Academies are expected to include a mixture of charter schools, traditional public schools and schools operated in conjunction with an institute of higher education. All academies will start the program in sixth grade and focus on the most challenged school districts and the most disadvantaged students across Texas.

The initiative also includes a STEM-focused professional development and technical assistance initiative that will create five to six Texas Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Centers to ensure Texas has the best math and science teachers and schools. In addition, TSTEM will establish a statewide network to equip all Texas high schools to adopt best practices and math and science teaching techniques honed at the academies. Another unique aspect of this initiative is its commitment to aligning high school, post-secondary education and economic development activities so that students not only receive a high quality education in STEM subjects, but are also presented with career opportunities in those fields due to economic development efforts in the same areas.

The privately funded THSP and Texas Education Agency, with the leadership and support of Gov. Perry, will manage TSTEM. The collaborating organizations expect to address the quality of math and science education in Texas and to build a model to serve as an example nationwide. In addition to the primary partners, others are stepping forward to support the TSTEM initiative.

“It is encouraging to see additional corporate and individual philanthropic leaders catch the vision for this project. By working together, we can nurture high-quality math and science education for all Texas students,” said Charles J. Wyly, Jr., chairman of the board of Communities Foundation of Texas, which provides management and operational support for the project. “As a timely example, National Instruments – a technology pioneer based in Austin, Texas—and the National Instruments Foundation have announced a major commitment to the TSTEM Initiative.”

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The Texas High School Project (THSP) is a $180 million public-private initiative committed to increasing graduation rates and college enrollment rates in every Texas community. The THSP’s partners include the Texas Education Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, educators, and others. The resources dedicated to the THSP support new and re-designed high schools, educator training and development, and specific programs designed to help students get ready for college. The approach used by the THSP creates learning environments where students build relationships with educators, are challenged with rigorous lessons, and excited by subjects made relevant to their lives.

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (www.msdf.org) was established in 1999 by the Dell family to improve outcomes for under-served children in a measurable way. Based in Austin, Texas, the Foundation funds programs that foster and improve education, health and safety for children around the world. With an endowment of more than $1 billion, the Foundation has committed more than $220 million to global children’s issues and Central Texas community initiatives to date. MSDF has contributed $34 million to THSP-related projects since 2003 and committed an additional $20 million to the TSTEM Initiative. NOTE: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is separate and distinct from the Dell Foundation. In first reference, please use 'The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.' For second references, 'the Dell family foundation' or 'MSDF' is correct.

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National Instruments (www.ni.com) is a technology pioneer and leader in virtual instrumentation – a revolutionary concept that has changed the way engineers and scientists in industry, government and academia approach measurement and automation. Leveraging PCs and commercial technologies, virtual instrumentation increases productivity and lowers costs for test, control and design applications through easy-to-integrate software, such as NI LabVIEW, and modular measurement and control hardware for PXI, PCI, USB and Ethernet. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 3,800 employees and direct operations in nearly 40 countries. In 2004, the company sold products to more than 25,000 companies in 90 countries. For the past six years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America. National Instruments has committed $1 million to the TSTEM Initiative.

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