Science is “really boring when all you do is read,” said eight-grader Corinne Dietrich from the Erie School District in Pennsylvania. “You visualize it better and understand it better when you’re using all this technology in the classroom.” Dietrich was speaking to a reporter from Erie Times-News about school work that included incubating chicken eggs and analyzing the movement of a worm. “All this technology” was microscopes, graphing calculators, science kits and other tools that her district bought with help from a $15 million GE Foundation grant.
The money was part of the Foundation’s six-year, $200 million Developing Futures program focused of finding new ways to teach science and math to American students from urban areas, and ultimately improve their job prospects.
This week the Foundation announced a new $18 million grant that brings this effort to the national level. The grant will help develop national learning standards and replace the uneven patchwork that exists today. “Our economy is facing an undeniable challenge – good paying jobs are going unfilled because U.S. workers don’t have the skills to fill the positions,” said Robert Corcoran, President and Chairman of the GE Foundation. “We must cultivate a highly educated workforce and we see the standards as a key component to answering this challenge.”
The standards, known as Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, set new rigorous expectations for students in literacy and math. So far officials in 46 states have signed on.
Money from the new $18 million grant will flow to Student Achievement Partners, whose founders David Coleman, Susan Pimentel and Jason Zimba led the standards development. “The GE Foundation is going deep in this work and its commitment to improving public education for all students is exactly what it is going to take to seed real and lasting change,” Coleman said.
GE may also reap some benefit. Last year GE Transportation, which is based in Erie, announced that it would invest over $400 million to open new plants and upgrade old ones in Pennsylvania and Texas. Good engineers are always wanted. With luck, Corinne Dietrich, the budding Erie scientist, will keep GE in mind.
Building a better future: Grants from the GE Foundation give American students access to hands-on experiments that improve their science skills and job prospects.