T-STEM Initiative a Boost for Texas Schools Students

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The T-STEM initiative was launched in December 2005 by the Governor Perry’s office in partnership with the Texas schools, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, National Instruments, and the Communities Foundation of Texas.

The Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (T-STEM) initiative is a $71 million dollar project to better prepare Texas schools students for success in college and the workplace. With the undeniable forward movement towards a global technology-based economy, secondary Texas schools are placing more emphasis on science and mathematics.

Though many Texas schools already are doing an excellent job in these educational areas, the most common reason many Texas schools are graded academically unacceptable by the state is poor science performance. The second most common reason is poor mathematics performance.

In 2005, only 72 percent of the students passed the mathematics portion and only 71 percent passed the science portion of the state’s required exit-level Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exam.  The passing rate among the Texas schools major ethnic groups was significantly lower. Only 54 percent of African-American students passed the math portion and only 55 percent passed the science portion. Hispanics did slightly better with 61 percent passing the math and 57 percent the science.

The hopes are that the new T-STEM project will improve current Texas schools student performance in both areas by providing innovative science and mathematics instruction, as well as innovative demonstration sites.

T-STEM will establish 35 small schools or academies, located in high need areas across the state of Texas. These Texas schools will focus on science, mathematics, engineering and technology instruction. From five to six STEM demonstration centers will be developed to transform current teaching methods for the Texas schools educators, as well as train and prepare teachers for these specialized Texas schools. Additionally, the project will establish a statewide network to promote a broad dissemination of practices throughout the Texas schools.

Each new T-STEM Texas schools will include grades 6-12 or will be a high school academy that works with feeder middle schools. Each grade will have about 100 Texas schools students. The focus will be to create personalized, engaging and relevant learning environments.

The enrolled Texas schools students will be required to take four years of mathematics and science with participation in related extra-curricular activities. An internship or project in areas related to science, technology, engineering or mathematics also will be required.

Educators in these Texas schools will be required to work with institutions of higher education to foster partnerships, dual credit classes, and teacher training opportunities.

Funding for the Texas schools T-STEM initiative is $30 million from the state of Texas, $20 million each from the Gates and Dell Foundations, $1 million from National Instruments, and $10 million from the Communities Foundation of Texas, which include leading businesses, foundations and individuals who underscore the significance of these academic areas to the future of our global economy.