Archive for Thursday, March 19, 2009

Education in science, math could aid triangle, group agrees

March 19, 2009

Math, engineering, technology and science could be the answer for Johnson County’s future.

Residents of Johnson County came together Friday for a community discussion about M.E.T.S. education and the Johnson County Education Research Triangle.

The discussion, at the Kansas University’s Edwards Campus, was sponsored by Johnson County Community College, Kansas State Olathe Innovation Campus, Blue Valley School District, Olathe School District, Shawnee Mission School District, Johnson County Library, Workforce Development Advisory Board, Kansas University Edwards Campus, NICE: National Institute for Construction Excellence.

Discussion surrounded how the tax-funded Research Triangle could benefit Johnson County workforce development and how to better prepare students for careers in the 21st Century.

In November, residents of Johnson County approved a 0.125 percent tax increase to establish the triangle. The tax increase is expected to pump $15 million a year to triangle partners, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas University Edwards Campus and Kansas State University-Olathe.

A brief video showed those in attendance why M.E.T.S. education is so important. Eight of 10 new jobs will be in health care or life sciences in the future.

The video also explained three approaches that could increase M.E.T.S. learning in elementary, middle and high schools. The three approaches, which included great teachers, accountability and 21st century learning, set the stage for group discussions to follow.

The great teachers approach described teachers with deep knowledge of their subject as the key to students mastering math, engineering, technology and science. The approach called for raising the salaries of teachers in those subjects, placing the most experienced and capable teachers in tough schools and creating better ways for teachers to communicate with parents.

The accountability approach described demanding more of teachers, students and schools through a strong and smart system of accountability. The approach called for measuring student progress through tests and assessments, creating incentives for better performance and encouraged families to expect high student achievement in M.E.T.S.

The 21st Century approach described creating an innovative, up-to-date curriculum for M.E.T.S. The approach called for a curriculum that excited students, created project based opportunities and developed partnerships with businesses and colleges.

The second part of the discussion centered on how to use the research triangle to better serve the Johnson County workforce.

Members of the group agreed that igniting a curiosity for sciences in a child early would greatly benefit the Johnson County area in respect to the Research Triangle.

Curtis Cain, associate superintendent of educational services in the Shawnee Mission School District, said the fact that the county is proactively looking to prepare students and community for changes that are going to occur in the immediate future speaks to the thinking of the community.

“Districts will find ways to work in their own context. The entire county will benefit from the proactive approach,” he said. “”We are going to look forward to the feedback and this is just the beginning stage for use. We are going to be very thoughtful and mindful of the feedback.”

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