Tennessee will dedicate three new schools to so-called STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The million-dollar grants for each school come from federal Race to the Top money the state won two years ago.
The three new STEM schools will be in Cookeville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities area. That’s on top of one already in Knoxville, as well as Stratford STEM Magnet High in Nashville. Stratford Principal Michael Steele says when it comes to readying more students for careers as engineers and scientists, it’s a case of better late than never:
“We’ve been needing STEM initiative (since) 20 years ago, not waiting until now. So it’s a good thing that we’re doing it now; we’re taking it seriously now. We should never be the followers in any category living in the United States of America.”
Steele says for example, relatively few black female students become engineers. So he says Stratford aims to encourage such careers, potentially through projects, field trips or internships.
When Governor Bill Haslam made the announcement today he was asked about a bill critics say would open science classrooms to attacks on evolution. Haslam says it’s a “fair question” how much say lawmakers have over the curriculum, adding “I think that’s why we have a state board of education.”