AURORA – July 13, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation that will advance STEM learning in Illinois by allowing the creation of an innovative school that will offer specialized education opportunities. Senate Bill 621 supports the creation of a math and science partnership school operated by Aurora’s four school districts and Aurora University on campus. Joined by local middle school students attending summer science camp, Governor Quinn called for increased STEM learning opportunities in Illinois as a way to prepare students for 21st century jobs.
“We want our children to be prepared to compete for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” said Governor Quinn. “This innovative school will increase learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and give students more opportunities to succeed.”
Sponsored by Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) and Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego), Senate Bill 621 authorizes Aurora University (AU) and its four partner school districts — West Aurora, East Aurora, Indian Prairie and Oswego — to jointly operate a STEM school on the AU campus. When fully operational, the partnership school will serve more than 400 third through eighth grade students who have demonstrated a proficiency in mathematics and science. The school will also train teachers who return to their home school districts as leaders in mathematics and science education.
“By signing this legislation, Governor Quinn is leading the way to make STEM learning more available for children in Illinois,” said Aurora University President Rebecca L. Sherrick.
In addition to nurturing students talented in mathematics and science, the partnership school will provide access to cutting-edge STEM education methods. Best practices and research results will be shared to improve mathematics and science education throughout the community.
“This is an important step to improving student achievement and increasing their interest in school,” said state Sen. Holmes, who introduced the bill in the Senate. “We owe it to our students to ensure that they aren’t being shortchanged during these tough economic times. It’s essential that we give them the tools needed to become future leaders in Illinois.”
“This has truly been a collaborative effort with one goal in mind – to provide a partnership school with area school districts at Aurora University placing an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – something that we need to focus on in our state,” said state Rep. Cross.
The university will begin to raise private funding for the partnership school immediately and estimates the cost to be $15 million. This new law passed both the Illinois House and Senate with unanimous support and takes effect Jan. 1, 2012.
The partnership school is the cornerstone of the Mathematics and Science Education Center of Aurora University, which was launched by the university's Institute for Collaboration in 2009 to address the deficiencies in STEM education in the United States. The center's programs also include content-based bachelor's and master's degrees, professional workshops and institutes for teachers, and after-school and summer studies programs for students.
“Because it engages learners of all ages, we believe the STEM partnership school holds great potential as a groundbreaking model for similar communities throughout the state and nation,” said Sherry Eagle, Executive Director of the Institute for Collaboration of Aurora University, which is leading the project.
More information about this partnership school is available at www.aurora.edu/institute.