June 13, 2012

Gillibrand Invites U.S. Education Senior Official for Innovation to Visit Long Island’s Cradle of Aviation Museum

Senator Touts STEM Magnet Academy at Air & Space Museum as a National Model to Provide Disadvantaged Youth with Opportunities in STEM-Related Fields

Long Island, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged U.S. Education Assistant Deputy Secretary Jim Shelton to visit Long Island’s STEM Magnet Academy at the Cradle of Aviation Museum and spend a school day this fall with local students, teachers, and business leaders. Senator Gillibrand pointed out that the school’s effective programs and partnerships with local businesses would serve as a nationwide model in drawing students from underserved communities towards STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes, internships, and careers. Under the program, 70% of students who are now seniors are taking STEM majors in college. All 70 of the students are now going to four-year colleges. 

With eight out of the nine fastest-growing occupations requiring proficiency in STEM disciplines, Senator Gillibrand stressed the need to close the skills gap among disadvantaged youth by graduating more STEM students and equipping all students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. 

Senator Gillibrand wrote in a letter to Assistant Deputy Secretary Shelton, “I am writing to you to invite you to the Cradle of Aviation Museum to learn about one such creative program they have developed with two local school districts to generate interest in math and science and tie local businesses into the effort. This initiative, called the STEM Magnet Academy at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, incorporates an air and space museum and its exhibits and artifacts into the curriculum for a cohort of students who spend half of every school day taking classes in math and science… We believe this model can be duplicated in other parts of the country to help address the skills gap challenges found throughout the nation, particularly among minority populations. It takes a great deal of hard work and willingness by the school and museum partners to think outside the box and deliver creative solutions to this complex problem, but the Cradle’s initiative proves it can be done. We would welcome the opportunity to have you experience a school day at the Cradle this fall.” 

"The STEM Magnet Academy at the Cradle has been a wonderful partnership that has allowed the museum to be used as an educational center for Math and Science,” said Andrew Parton, Executive Director of the Cradle of Aviation Museum. “We've been able to bridge the gap between education and business by bringing local businesses into the process of generating excitement for careers in aerospace and technology. I welcome the opportunity to showcase our success during a visit with Department of Education officials and hope they take Senator Gillibrand up on her offer.” 

Launched four years ago, the STEM Magnet Academy at the Cradle of Aviation Museum connects 170 high school students from two of Long Island’s most underserved communities with a hands-on curriculum in physics, math and robotics. Long Island youth are exposed to the museum’s exhibits and resources. In partnership with local businesses, students are placed in STEM-related internships, creating a pipeline for future hires. 

In February 2012, Senator Gillibrand joined AAR Aircraft Component Services, a leading provider of products and services to the worldwide aviation industry, in announcing a new partnership with the Westbury Union Free School District and the Cradle of Aviation Museum with opportunities in STEM fields and a network for future jobs. 

Across New York, STEM-related jobs are expected to grow by over 33,000 jobs by 2018. But less than one-third of American students are proficient in math and science, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

To encourage more students to lead in the fields of math and science and in emerging high-tech careers, Senator Gillibrand introduced legislation that would create a targeted effort to increase the number of elementary, middle and high schools students who choose science and engineering as a career. Senator Gillibrand also authored proposals to spark greater interest in STEM learning and draw more STEM teachers to educate students. 

Full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:

Dear Assistant Deputy Secretary Shelton: 

Over the past few years there has been a consistent concern raised about the declining number of students who are interested in S.T.E.M. subjects in school, particularly while good-paying jobs are going unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers in these subjects. In order to grow our economy and ensure the country’s competitiveness in such industries as advanced manufacturing, creative initiatives must be launched to better prepare our students to meet the employment needs of our businesses. 

I am writing to you to invite you to the Cradle of Aviation Museum to learn about one such creative program they have developed with two local school districts to generate interest in math and science and tie local businesses into the effort. This initiative, called the STEM Magnet Academy at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, incorporates an air and space museum and its exhibits and artifacts into the curriculum for a cohort of students who spend half of every school day taking classes in math and science. 

The students are exposed on a daily basis to an industry that started over a hundred years ago in this region in an effort to help make S.T.E.M. subjects more relevant to real world use. In this program, students take classes in Physics, Math, Robotics and World History and then utilize the museum’s collection to illustrate the theory they have learned. Periodically the students have an opportunity to interact with visiting pilots, engineers, astronauts and public officials as well as the business community through company tours, job shadowing and internships. 

The program began with the Westbury School District four years ago, with an initial participation of 70 ninth and tenth graders. This past year the program added the Uniondale School District with an addition of 100 students, bringing the daily cohort to 170 students. The participating students all come from two of the most underserved districts on Long Island and are primarily from minority populations and have a consistent ratio of two to one girls to boys. The program’s results have been outstanding with seventy percent of the students who are now seniors taking S.T.E.M. majors in college and with 100 percent of the students going to four year colleges. 

We believe this model can be duplicated in other parts of the country to help address the skills gap challenges found throughout the nation, particularly among minority populations. It takes a great deal of hard work and willingness by the school and museum partners to think outside the box and deliver creative solutions to this complex problem, but the Cradle’s initiative proves it can be done. 

We would welcome the opportunity to have you experience a school day at the Cradle this fall. We can have you meet with students, teachers and a number of business leaders who are part of the affiliated S.T.E.M. Business Partnership. 

The STEM Magnet Academy is unique in that it is not a one shot approach to the problem, but rather part of the museum and partnering school district’s daily operations, with all involved parties having a dedicated focus on bridging the gap between education and business. We hope to continue to evolve and expand this much-needed program to a larger universe of students in the near future, an effort your involvement would be critical to.