(June 12, 2009) At this rate, the generation of children growing up in Colorado today will be the first to be less educated than the one before it, warned Gov. Bill Ritter.
Ritter shared this troubling fact with a standing-room-only group as he launched the Colorado STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Network, a math and science non-profit organization. The organization emphasizes the importance of STEM fields and strengthening STEM education in Colorado.
Two years ago, Colorado was one of six states selected to receive a grant from the National Governors Association, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Intel Corporation to create STEM education initiatives in their states. With the help the University of Colorado Denver, Colorado was able to submit a proposal that outlined two chief priorities: to create a sustainable, influential P-20 Council, and to create a network of “grassroots-level” STEM compacts, or regional organizations.
“I am thrilled to be here today to reflect on the impressive accomplishments we have made in STEM education and to look ahead at the incredible opportunities before us,” Ritter told a gathering of almost 200 education, business, and policy leaders in the State Capitol. “Bold reform is under way and it’s not enough for one organization to lead the charge. All of us in this room . . . must sustain the state’s STEM agenda.”
Ritter reported sobering state statistics to the group, noting one in four kids who start ninth grade do not graduate, two-thirds of high school graduates do not go on to college and one-third of college freshmen need remedial training.
Chancellor M. Roy Wilson echoed both the governor’s concerns and hopes, adding, “Only one-third of the recent bachelor’s degrees awarded in the United States are in science and engineering. Compare that to 59 percent for China or 46 percent for South Korea,” he said. “We must do better. At the University of Colorado Denver and at many universities across Colorado that work is under way.”
Ritter and Wilson both credited Carole Basile, associate professor in the School of Education and Human Development, with strong direction as board chair of the Colorado STEM Network. Basile is the founder and developer of the UC Denver math and science center and the Center for Applied Science and Mathematics for Innovation and Competitiveness.
Basile says, “Given the technological and scientific nature of Colorado’s current and future workforce, the need for students to have access to STEM education is imperative. Governor Ritter’s support of the Colorado STEM Network is a major step toward gathering all stakeholders together in order to move the effort for strong STEM education forward.”
Enthusiasm for the program was far reaching: launch organizers noted there were more than 100 people on the waiting list wishing to attend and, as one woman from St. Vrain school district posted on the governor’s facebook, “[It’s] very exciting to see these kinds of improvement for kids in our community!”
For more information on STEM, go to www.ColoradoSTEMeducation.com.
Audio and video of the July 12 launch will soon be available on the governor’s Web site at http://www.colorado.gov/governor.