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Science, Technology High Schools to Open in Texas As Part of Statewide Initiative

Science, Technology High Schools to Open in Texas As Part of Statewide Initiative

The Texas High School Project (THSP) — supported by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Communities Foundation of Texas as well as Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Education Agency has launched 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.

“Education is the lynchpin in creating a strong work force to bring Texas and the nation into the 21st century,” says 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.”

The initiative was created to ensure that 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 TSTEM Academies over the next five years. At full capacity, the academies will serve grades six through 12 and enroll at least 25,000 low-income and minority students annually. The academies are designed to spark students’ interest in math and science by engaging them in real-world learning activities.

“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,” says Susan Dell, co-founder and chairwoman of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, which partially funds the THSP.

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 STEM Centers.

“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,” says Charles J. Wyly Jr., chairman of the board of Communities Foundation of Texas, which provides management and operational support for the project.

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