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Chicago Public Schools to Share $1 Million US2020 Grant

Northwestern is among CPS partners that will further STEM education

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June 4, 2014 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was recently named one of seven school districts nationwide that will share a competitive $1 million grant through the US2020 City Competition. The grant will allow OSEP and other CPS partners to increase their STEM education efforts in Chicago.

“The win reflects the strong commitment of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his education team to make Chicago a national leader in STEM education,” said Kemi Jona, research professor in Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy and director of Northwestern’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP).

Sponsored by Cisco Systems, the US2020 competition challenged school districts from cities across the country to develop innovative models that will increase both the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professionals working with students and STEM education opportunities for girls, minority students and children from low-income families.

“Industry and academic mentors are key to the success of these projects,” said Jona, who added that the US2020 initiative aligned with STEM education efforts that OSEP has been engaged in for several years with Chicago Public Schools.

An example is OSEP’s work in developing the Mentor Matching Engine (MME). An online platform, MME brings mentors, students and teachers together to collaborate on student research projects. OSEP’s STEM student research program connects CPS high school teachers with industry and academic mentors to develop and implement student research programs at Chicago high schools.

As part of the latter program, OSEP hosts the High School Project Showcase at Northwestern’s annual Undergraduate Research and Arts Expo. The showcase gives Chicago-area high school students opportunities to learn about academic research, present their own research and connect with Northwestern students and faculty. Last year, 35 CPS students from five high schools participated.

OSEP has closely worked with Mayor Emanuel’s education team and CPS on the creation of the city’s five new Early College STEM Schools (ECSS). OSEP provides teacher professional development and STEM curriculum and programming to the schools, and Jona serves on the ECSS steering committee.

With support from Baxter International, Inc., OSEP for the last two years has partnered with Lindblom Math and Science Academy’s Biotechnology Center of Excellence. Last year more than 100 teachers from 79 Chicago high schools participated in the biotechnology professional development program that provides workshops, symposia, research experiences, curriculum, laboratory equipment and online resources to teachers.

OSEP also created the Institute for STEM Teaching and Research at Northwestern University (iSTAR@NU), which provides teaching training, STEM curricula, learning technologies and in-classroom coaching for middle and high school teachers. In 2013, iSTAR@NU worked with nearly 200 teachers from 84 CPS schools.

“Our goal is to make STEM education relevant and engaging to students,” said OSEP director Jona. “The newly awarded grant will further partnerships between Northwestern and Chicago Public Schools and increase the number of high quality STEM learning experiences for CPS students and teachers that we provide.”

Topics: University, Neighborhood