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Torlakson Tells San Diego Educators Science Class Ready For Revival

Aired 8/23/13 on KPBS News.

Forum focuses on training San Diego students for STEM careers.

— While California students have some of the lowest math and science standardized test scores in the country, Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction told San Diego County business leaders and educators, be believes the state's science and math instruction are poised for a renaissance.

The state certainly needs that renaissance if it is going to have the workforce it needs in the future - one that's well trained and ready for careers in tech-heavy industries.

How to fuel that renaissance was the focus of a forum in La Jolla Thursday hosted by Torlakson and some of the county's biotech and science-based business consortiums and education organizations geared at exposing students to hands-on science.

The afternoon showcased programs like The Elementary Science Institute, which has run after-school and summer science lab classes in San Diego for 50 year.

Participants like Sandra Slivka, director of the Miramar Amgen Teacher Support Center want to fuel the revival of science instruction by building more partnerships with business and formal pathways from the classroom to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

The support center trains high school teachers to teach biotechnology classes for which their students can get college credit.

This year's state budget includes $1 billion to roll out new English and math standards for schools. Torlakson said the first payments to districts, which have to be used in the next two years to upgrade technology, train teachers or buy new classroom materials, are due to go out this week.

The new standards are focused on the scientific method and way of thinking, skills Torlakson said students will need to compete for jobs in STEM industries.

"It's about critical thinking, problem solving, working well in a team, good communication skills, using evidence to support you claim, using evidence to prove the hypothesis," Torlakson said.

The budget also includes $250 million dollar for career and technical education. Torlakson said the state is using some of that money to fund new STEM-career high schools that have to be run in partnership with colleges. Businesses could join those partnerships to build schools where students can earn college credit and professional certifications.

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