White House Fellow Rodney D. Lewis, represented Joining Forces, Office of the First Lady, at a major event recently in Virginia to celebrate the increase in education outreach to students in military families by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).
Lewis was on hand as NMSI, the Office of Naval Research and the Army Education Outreach Program announced the major expansion of the Initiative for Military Families (IMF), which provides college-level courses in math, science and English for students from military families. NMSI is partnering with the White House Joining Forces campaign to support increased education opportunities for America’s military families.
At a special ceremony at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach, VA., NMSI announced that the Initiative for Military Families is being expanded from the four initial sites launched last year (two near Fort Campbell in Kentucky and two near Fort Hood in Texas) to a total of 28 schools in 10 states that are serving high concentrations of students from military families. Eleven of the new locations will be in Virginia, including seven in the Hampton Roads area. The IMF will directly support training for teachers and provide advanced educational opportunities specifically targeted for military children to help prepare them for college level curriculum.
Dr. Michael Kassner, Director of Research at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), told the audience at the announcement of the expansion of the National Math and Science Initiative's special Initiative for Military Families that the top leadership at ONR strongly supports such initiatives to help students. "We believe in this very much for selfish reasons -- we realize the percentage of math and science majors getting bachelor's degrees is flat...and we might not be able to fill our slots because there is not a supply of math and science graduates." He pointed out that some 67 percent of the PhDs in engineering are foreign-born, which means "we're not harvesting enough American talent."
He also noted that approximately 70 percent of those getting bachelor's degrees in engineering in the U.S. are non-minority males, "which means we are not taking advantage of all our talent."
Others participating in the event included Larry Prior, Executive Vice President of BAE Systems, a major supporter of the IMF; Gregg Fleisher, NMSI National APTIP Director; Dr. Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Paul Nichols, President of Virginia Advanced Study Strategies (VASS).
Prior told the AP students from military families who were in the audience, "If you do well in AP, we're going to hire you."
NMSI is implementing its highly successful Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP) in the IMF schools so students from military families can benefit from rigorous AP* courses in math, science and English. The program is already producing results: In the first year, the four high schools implementing APTIP showed an increase in passing scores on AP math, science and English exams of 45 percent - almost six times the national average.
“APTIP is equipping our students from military families to better compete on the global stage, which is essential to the future of our country,” said Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, CEO of NMSI. She pointed out that research indicates that students passing AP courses in high school are three times more likely to complete a college degree. Further, AP students are among the few American students who compare favorably with their counterparts in other countries on internationally ranked math and science exams.
Almost two million young people in America have a parent serving in the military today. More than 220,000 of those young people have at least one parent deployed overseas. The separation, concerns about safety, and frequent transfers can be particularly hard on the children whose parents protect our country. NMSI is concentrating on bringing APTIP to their schools.
“This seven-fold expansion of the IMF schools will ensure that more children in military families have access to consistent, rigorous and high-quality AP math and science coursework,” said Gregg Fleisher, NMSI National APTIP Director.
Because the AP curriculum is uniform across the country, the NMSI program provides excellence and continuity for students whenever and wherever their families are transferred. While the IMF focus is on schools near military installations, all the students in the participating schools can benefit from the program.
Generous inaugural funding to launch the IMF program in 2010 was provided by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Major funding to add additional high schools is being provided by the Army Education Outreach Program, BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and Northrop Grumman, with additional support from Modern Technology Solutions, and the O’Donnell Foundation.
With additional funding, it is anticipated the Initiative for Military Families can be expanded to 150 public high schools, ensuring that a very high percentage of military families will be served.
Brad Cooper is Executive Director of Joining Forces in the Office of the First Lady.