Press Release

Gillibrand Announces Innovative Education Agenda to Boost Stem Proficiency for Rochester-Finger Lakes Students

Jun 2, 2014

Rochester, NY – Standing at Rochester STEM High School, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, MCC President Anne Kress and Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, announced today her innovative education agenda to encourage more youths, especially women, to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), bolster engineering education programs across New York’s elementary, middle, and high schools and encourage the development of computer science career education programs that meet the market needs of employers.

“New York is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities, a world-class workforce and innovative career opportunities,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But if we’re going to keep our competiveness in the global economy, and keep our skilled workforce in the region, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with getting more talented students – from diverse backgrounds – into the STEM pipeline at a younger age, expanding engineering education, and developing programs that will introduce students to the many career opportunities in computer science. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It’s our job to make sure they are prepared.”

“I am encouraged by the priority that this proposed legislation places on making sure that girls and minorities aren’t left behind in the increasingly technology-driven economy,” said Mayor Warren. “Both groups are woefully under-represented in most technical fields, so it’s imperative that we put plans in place to make sure that they are equipped to participate in the economy of tomorrow.”

With eight of nine of the fastest growing industries requiring math and science proficiency and women, minority, and low-income students underrepresented in STEM and computer-related careers, Senator Gillibrand is pushing for federal measures to close the achievement gap and bring more STEM-related K-12 programs, like the ones here at Rochester STEM High School.

Rochester STEM High School opened its doors to 200 ninth grade students in 2010, and today more than 600 students attend.  Students entering the school have the choice between three National Academy Foundation accredited tracks in Engineering, Health Science and Information Technology.  The rigorous instructional programs, hands on learning and engagement with key community partnerships prepare students for college and the global workforce in high demand careers.  The Rochester STEM High School immerses students in an innovative and challenging environment that teaches critical, real world, problem solving skills.   A few examples include classes in software development, microbiology, robotics and aerospace engineering. 

And a new initiative, Rochester P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) will be starting this fall with a projected freshman class of 100-125 students, these students have committed to the program which is a 9-14 model that provides an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and also an A.A.S. degree from Monroe Community College in either Computer Information Systems or Computer Systems Technology. Both of these degrees provide direct training for different types of careers in the Information Technology field, an area in need of trained, qualified, middle skills candidates now and in the near future. P-TECH will be located on the Edison Campus as a program within the STEM School.

To spark greater student interest in STEM, Senator Gillibrand announced three key proposals as part her innovative education agenda. Under Gillibrand’s legislation, Rochester STEM High School would be able to apply for federal grants to strengthen STEM education and boost participation in computer science.

Senator Gillibrand’s STEM Education Agenda

1. Providing STEM Education and Access to Girls and Minorities

Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation called the STEM Gateways Act that would provide funding through the U.S. Department of Education to help schools implement rigorous STEM academics, with a focus on reaching underrepresented groups. Selected elementary and secondary schools in partnership with community colleges, non-profits, and other partner organizations would be able to use federal funding to support STEM, classroom activities, extra-curricular and after-school learning, summer programs, student tutoring and mentoring, and professional development for educators.  Such focused efforts on expanding STEM opportunities for girls, minorities and economically disadvantaged students will broaden and strengthen the pipeline of American STEM workers.

2. Bolstering Engineering Education Programs in Nation’s Elementary, Middle, and High Schools

Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation that would help boost engineering education programs in the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools. The Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act (ETEA) would help increase student achievement and interest in innovative, hands-on learning through engineering design skills and disciplines by removing barriers at the federal level and building upon existing federal education policy in several key areas. Legislation would expand student exposure to engineering design skills by requiring states to ensure engineering design skills and practices are integrated into their science standards, provide instructors tools and support to effectively teach engineering, and enable schools to target more resources toward engineering education by expanding the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program to include all STEM subjects, including engineering and computer science. Legislation would expand both the 21st Century Learning Centers program, which provides funds for after school activities, and the Rural and Low-Income School program to include program funding for all STEM subjects.

Gillibrand’s bill would also bolster federal research in the area of engineering education by amending the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 to include all STEM subject areas for the first time under The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The bill also directs IES to specifically support key studies and evaluations related to K-12 engineering education, including identifying best practices and promising innovations.

3. Encourage the Development of Computer Science Career Education Programs

Senator Gillibrand introduced the Computer Science Career Education Act that would establish a grant program to encourage the development of computer science career education programs that meet the market needs of employers and better integrate secondary and postsecondary education.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 1 in every 2 STEM jobs will be in computing and there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science and only 400,000 students with a computer science degree.  Despite these opportunities, most states do not offer computer science courses as part of their core curriculum in math and science and have focused on offering technology literacy or computing application courses.  Grants under this program would be awarded to a consortium between State or local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations and employers in the computer science sector.