By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) on Friday revealed new efforts to continue advancing STEM education in North Carolina.

The new partnership with the NC STEM Community Collaborative is a part of North Carolina’s “Race to the Top” award, which provides federal funding for the Career & College, Ready, Set, Go! initiative conceived and adopted by North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue.

The $500,000 contract awarded to NC STEM is expected to run through spring 2012.

With this funding, NC STEM will lead the effort to incorporate the resources and expertise to help scale the successes from state and local efforts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education – STEM. NC STEM also will assist the efforts of NCDPI and other STEM partners to develop STEM anchor and cluster schools, build innovative STEM curricula, expand virtual courses, and increase the number and skills of teachers in STEM subjects.

“Strengthening education, one of my top priorities, is the key to our children’s future and to building the workforce of tomorrow,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “Career & College: Ready Set Go! keeps North Carolina focused on the cutting-edge of education innovation, especially critical areas like STEM. “This new partnership will provide an enormous boost in teaching those invaluable skills.”

NCDPI will work with NC STEM to organize K-12 public and private initiatives into a coordinated statewide STEM strategy, slated to be completed this fall. This work brings together private-sector leaders and public-sector organizations such as the N.C. Joining Our Businesses and Schools (JOBS) Commission led by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton.

“All North Carolina classrooms deserve access to resources and tools that will help students learn the important skills that will make them competitive in today’s economy,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “NC STEM Community Collaborative is the state’s leader in connecting great programs, schools, and districts with each other and private-sector partners and experts from around the nation – it’s a key part of our STEM strategy.”

NC STEM Leader Karl Rectanus said the strategy and corresponding framework with the NCDPI will align all the great STEM efforts and programs currently happening throughout the state, and facilitate the growth of the worthy innovations so all communities get what they need in order to positively impact their schools, workforce and economies.

“Many North Carolina School Districts have pockets of great STEM programs and schools,” said Rectanus. “NC STEM’s charge is to help scale homegrown innovations and to bring to North Carolina – through its national work – best practices from around the country to reach more students and teachers much more quickly. This creates a system of excellence that better prepares every student to compete for jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Tom Vermillion, small business owner and board chairman of STEM East, a public/private partnership in Kinston that includes Lenoir County Schools, Spirit Aerosystems, the Golden LEAF Foundation, and other local industry and community organizations, are expanding hands-on learning labs for middle school students in the region.

“We’re growing STEM down east to help our students and our businesses flourish, and we need the connections to other experts that NC STEM can provide,” said Vermillion. “And, we think others in North Carolina need our innovations, too.”

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