By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

RALEIGH, N.C. – GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will provide STEM schools in North Carolina $750,000 over the next three years, according to an announcement last week from the company and the North Carolina New Schools Project (NCNSP).

The funding from GSK, one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, will support the professional development of teachers and principals in North Carolina schools that emphasize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curricula.

These schools are part of a statewide STEM network developed by the NCNSP in partnership with local districts, the State Board of Education, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction as well as higher education and businesses.

Mary Linda Andrews, director of community partnerships for GSK, said the STEM schools play a critical role in helping students graduate well prepared for the demands of a new economy.

“North Carolina is taking solid steps in the right direction to ensure that its workforce of the future will be ready,” Andrews said. “The funding from GlaxoSmithKline will ultimately help many students graduate with the STEM knowledge and skills needed for success in college and careers.”

The grant from GSK will also help sponsor an annual conference organized by the North Carolina New Schools Project for STEM educators in North Carolina and across the nation, the first of which will be held April 16-18 in Raleigh. The conference includes a symposium for students from STEM-focused schools to share research and projects.

GSK provided early support for the development of North Carolina’s first STEM-focused schools, which during the last five years have developed into places of innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Seven of these first nine STEM schools graduated more than 90 percent of their inaugural classes in 2011.

NCNSP President Tony Habit said GSK’s support has been important to the success of the STEM schools.

“GlaxoSmithKline’s leadership for STEM education was instrumental in the establishment and professional development for those initial STEM schools,” Habit said. “Their early support of STEM education, long before it became such a national focus, also was critical in helping the North Carolina New Schools Project develop an effective approach to STEM education that is being expanded statewide. This new contribution will help more schools reach more students.”

The schools share similar career themes: health and life sciences, energy and sustainability, biotechnology and agriscience, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, and security. The networks also are supported in part by the state’s $400 million Race to the Top grant awarded in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education.

As North Carolina moves forward in STEM education, the schools within the growing network will serve as models for the development of additional schools as well as for scaling STEM education in other schools across the state.