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Math, Science, and Military Families

by Rick Weiss

This post originally appeared on the White House blog on April 15, 2011.

It’s the ultimate military family battle, and it’s happening today at Fountain-Fort Carson High School in Colorado Springs. On one side are the parents -- military personnel based at nearby Fort Carson. Challenging them are their kids -- students at the high school, where about half the student population consists of military family children. And overseeing the battle -- actually a parents-against-kids math and science competition -- are First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, with a few scholarly pyrotechnics thrown in by Jamie Hyneman and Grant Imahara from the Discovery Channel program MythBusters.

The event, sponsored in part by National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), is part of a new White House initiative, Joining Forces, aimed at supporting and honoring America’s service members and their families. Launched at the White House on Tuesday, the initiative is focusing on a number of key areas including: beefing up science and math education at schools heavily populated by students from military families; improving health for military families; and focusing on training and jobs for members of the military and veterans.

Children of military personnel typically face multiple moves during their years in school, adding an array of challenges for the students and their teachers. For its part in support of Joining Forces, Discovery Education is providing Fountain-Fort Carson High School educators with free access to professional development tools including career video clips, learning activities, and related content that highlight the connections among science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

In related efforts that are also part of the Joining Forces initiative, the NMSI, in partnership with Military Child Education Coalitionand Military Impacted Schools Association, is announcing a major new campaign to bring rigorous STEM coursework, including AP math and science classes, to public high schools serving a high percentage of military families.To get things started, NMSI will expand its Initiative for Military Families to an additional 28 public high schools serving children of military families in nine states, impacting over 40,000 students in the next school year alone.

TheInitiative for Military Familieswas launched in the fall of 2010 in four public high schools, two serving Fort Campbell in Kentucky and two serving Fort Hood in Texas as part of the President’s Educate to Innovate campaign and is being promoted by Change the Equation, the coalition of over 100 leading CEOs committed to improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

In just the first year in these four high schools, the impact of the program was sizable. There was a 64 percent increase (from 600 to 984 students) in the number of students enrolled in math, science, and English AP courses; and over 80 teachers were trained to teach college-level AP and pre-AP math, science, and English courses.

To see some video of today’s competition in Fort Collins, check out this link. Additional information on education commitments in support of military families is available HERE.

Rick Weiss is Assistant Director for Strategic Communications and a Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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