Are you smarter than a fifth grader?


Recently, I had the pleasure to meet William from West Warwick, a fifth grader at Deering Middle School who taught me a few things about a catapult and other robotics gadgets he has been building after school hours. Anyone who had the opportunity I did to listen to him and his schoolmates explain some of their hands-on science projects would not think we should have any challenges teaching our students the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).

However, most young people across the country aren’t benefiting from the special opportunities available at Deering, which has partnered with the Kent County YMCA to provide engaging, fun and educational after-school activities to supplement the regular classroom experience of almost 500 middle schoolers. Many of the 475 children served this school year are from low-income families and classroom performances have improved.

We must encourage and support more of these innovative learning experiences for our students not only to give them the best chance to succeed as individuals, but also to ensure our country’s future competitiveness. For example, employment in computer and mathematical science occupations is expected to grow more than twice as fast as all other occupations; however, in 2010, fewer than half of high school graduates who took the ACT college entrance exam met College Readiness Benchmark, while only 29 percent attained that level in science.

To address this shortcoming, Congressman Tim Ryan and I have proposed legislation to give states and schools resources to fund the best alternative STEM programs. The Innovation Inspiration Grant Program increases access to non-traditional efforts that complement traditional curriculums by helping students understand the practical application of their studies. Grants would support teacher training and allow instruction outside of school hours. In addition, resources could go toward partnering with business and industry in initiatives like non-profit STEM competitions.

I plan to continue highlighting efforts across our state that can serve as models for giving our next generation of workers the skills they need to thrive in the global economy. What’s happening in and outside of your schools deserves attention. Please let me know by contacting my office at 732-9400 or by e-mailing me through my website at


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I was curious to see how long it would take the congressman to beg for more money. For something. Somewhere. Answer: Three sentences.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013