by Pamela Young, Published November 14, 2011
YPSILANTI - While experts argue over whether there is a worldwide shortage of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates, they all agree on one thing: North America lags well behind the rest of the world in this category.
That's all about to change in Michigan, thanks to a strong alliance of state and national organizations, educators and nonprofit foundations supporting Project Lead The Way (PLTW) a premier STEM program.
A partnership has been formed to promote the teaching of innovation and problem solving through grades 6-12 engineering and biomedical science career path experiences. The partners include: the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Eastern Michigan University (EMU), and Lawrence Technological University (LTU).
The executive team will provide strategic direction for the expansion and maintenance of this exciting STEM program in Michigan. Members include Patty Cantu and Linda Forward from the MDE, Rebecca Wenglinski from the MEDC, John Dugger and Paul Kuwik from EMU, Lisa Kujawa and Maria Vaz from LTU. Ken Maguire as the regional director of Project Lead The Way is an ex officio member.
Affiliated with the national nonprofit organization, Project Lead the Way, the Michigan program works with teachers to implement a detailed curriculum into the middle and high school programs for engineering and biomedical science.
"Michigan's program is one of the few states in the country to have such strong state and foundation support," said Paul Kuwik, state director from Eastern Michigan University. "It's a unique combination to have such strong backing and it will make an impact in providing an educated workforce."
Project Lead the Way programs are already offered to more than 400,000 students in more than 4,200 schools in all 50 states.
"Our mission is to help Michigan teachers update their skills and then implement the program's detailed curriculum into middle school and high school classrooms," Kuwik said. "Depending on funding, we hope to train up to 150 teachers a year."
The program provides teachers with comprehensive training and extensive ongoing professional assistance, and they are supported through an ongoing professional development-training model based upon its curriculum.
Each course concludes with a standardized test to gauge student performance and is cross-walked with the Michigan Merit Curriculum.
Upon completing the program, students can take an exam, which, if successfully completed, will provide college credit at numerous universities including Eastern Michigan University, Kettering University, Iowa State University, Purdue University and the University of Iowa.