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Technology education: Federal Way School District scores $600,000 grant

A new technology-focused nonprofit advocacy group launched Monday in Federal Way, bringing with it a couple of hundred thousand reasons to celebrate.

The Seattle-based Washington STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) will advocate for strengthening such education and will give money to districts to support it.

Federal Way schools will benefit from an initial round of grants handed out Monday: $10,000 to create an assessment system for students in the district’s Academic Acceleration program, and $600,000 to support the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) Academy in Federal Way. An additional $475,000 was given to the region’s Teach For America program, which will be in place next fall in Federal Way and Seattle.

In total, Washington STEM will give out more than $2 million in grants this week as it holds press conferences throughout the state. Three more rounds of grants will come later this year.

Monday’s launch took place at Saghalie Middle School, which starting next school year will be home to a STEM-focused program that will feed into a similar program at Decatur High School.

Washington STEM CEO Julia Novy-Hildesley said that the organization has been in the works for two years. It was conceived by a group of business leaders, she said, with a goal of better preparing students to enter Washington’s “innovation economy.”  The organization has initially been supported by Microsoft, Boeing, engineering firm McKinstry and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

We want to make a “catalystic investment,” she said. Washington STEM touts statistics that show students are not being prepared for high-tech careers: The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only one in five high school seniors in the U.S. is proficient in science.

Novy-Hildesley said Washington STEM is both an advocacy group — it will work on political efforts to burnish STEM education — and a benefactor of districts looking to strengthen science, math and engineering programs.

The $600,000 given to the Federal Way-based TAF Academy will fund several efforts. It will support a program that brings professionals in STEM fields to talk to students, and will also build a data system to track achievement in TAF academies.

The TAF Academy is a partnership between Federal Way schools and the private Technology Access Foundation. That foundation is looking to expand to other school districts; it will launch another TAF Academy in Renton in 2012, said TAF executive director Trish Millines Dziko.

The $600,000 will be delivered over a period of three years and will likely be split between Federal Way and Renton.

 

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