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Franken seeks legislation that Invests in STEM education

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced plans this week to introduce legislation that would invest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.

Franken made the announcement at the University of Minnesota during a roundtable discussion with key education and business leaders that addressed how investing in STEM education today will position Minnesota and the U.S. to sustain global competitiveness in the future. Roundtable participants included Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota's Education Commissioner, Steve Kelley, Director of the Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association.

"Funding STEM education is a smart investment, but we need to be sure we're putting that money in the right place," said Sen. Franken. "New teachers need role models to look up to and get advice from. At the same time, more experienced, effective teachers need continued support, advancement opportunities, and recognition of their hard work to remain engaged. That's why I'll be introducing a bill to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps."

Franken's bill would establish a STEM Master Teacher Corps for top STEM K-12 teachers. The master teachers in the Corps would mentor beginning or less effective teachers, in addition to networking with one another and sharing best practices and classroom resources. Master teachers would also be compensated for their teaching skills and new leadership roles. The legislation Franken is proposing was originally based on a concept proposed by President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), 18 out of the 20 fastest growing occupations will be tied to STEM disciplines, and economic forecasts project that scientific and technical occupations in Minnesota will increase by at least twice the average growth rate over the next ten years.

The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests rank Minnesota eighth graders 2nd in math and 6th in science compared with other states. Despite the high rankings, only 47 percent of these students were deemed proficient in math and 40 percent in science.