Wheeling District News

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Discusses STEM at Wheeling H.S.

October 24, 2013

Conversation marks launch of first-of-its-kind nano lab

Wheeling, Ill. – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan participated in a conversation on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education at Wheeling High School today, amid a national push to increase the number of high school students proficient in those fields, prepare them for jobs of the future and re-establish America as the world’s education leader.
The discussion, which also featured four Wheeling students and an award-winning science teacher, celebrated the opening of the high school’s new nanotechnology laboratory – the first of its kind in a U.S. public high school. More than 350 sciencestudents attended the moderated conversation and posed questions live; it was also streamed into classrooms district-wide. 
Secretary Duncan toured the nanotechnology laboratory with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn during his visit, observing student-run demos of the equipment and hearing from students about the impact of the lab’s state-of-the-art technology and research opportunities on their education.
"We all have a stake in ensuring our kids are ready to compete in today’s technology-based economy," Secretary Duncan said. "Through its new nanotechnology lab, the Wheeling High School community and federal, state, and local partners have invested in students to prepare them for fast-growing STEM careers. I’m thrilled that Race to the Top played a role in making this possible. The lab’s most important partners, though, are the teachers who work to inspire and build America’s next generation of inventors, engineers and doctors."
Wheeling’s nano lab was developed with grant funding from the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Wheeling is also a pilot school in the state’s Research and Development STEM Learning Exchange, a public-private collaboration formed as part of Illinois Pathways, a $10.3 million initiative launched last year and funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top initiative. The new lab’s equipment and real-world applications will allow students in wide-ranging classes school-wide, from chemistry to art, to examine matter atom by atom. The lab also will serve as a resource for business partners and educational institutions across the northwest suburbs.
"Nanotechnology has the potential to impact all sectors of our economy, from healthcare to energy, and it is tremendously exciting that some of the groundwork for life-changing research is being laid in our high school," said Superintendent David Schuler. "This new lab is designed to inspire our students for success in a changing economy, and to excite them about the potential of science and mathematics as they go on to pursue innovative jobs that may not even exist today."
More than 8.6 million STEM-related jobs are expected to be available in 2018, and as many as
3 million of them may go unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers, according to data from the National Math and Science Initiative.
Wheeling High School, part of Township High School District 214, is a comprehensive, Title I high school with a STEM focus designed to make high school more relevant to the future careers of a diverse student body. The school features tangible career pathways focused on areas such as manufacturing, architecture, engineering, healthcare and nanotechnology to direct students toward college credentials and 21st century careers based on their goals and interests.
Over time, Wheeling’s composite ACT score has increased and consistently lands above state and national averages. More students than ever are taking and succeeding at Advanced Placement exams and earning college certificates in high school, despite changing demographics. Approximately 43 percent of the students are low-income, and more than 50 percent are Hispanic. The school recently was named an Exemplar School by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills for effectively connecting STEM, 21st century skills and career pathways.
"STEM education is critical to advancing our community and our nation, and as educators it is our responsibility to ensure all students are aware of the opportunities and inspired to pursue careers in high-demand fields," said Lazaro Lopez, Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. "We ask our students when they start at Wheeling, ‘What do you want to do the rest of your life?’ and we make sure to deliver an experience that prepares them. Having Secretary Duncan here today reaffirms the importance of STEM education in our students’ lives."
Lopez, Wheeling’s former principal, was named Illinois Principal of the Year in 2013 for his leadership in developing the school’s STEM curriculum. He moderated the discussion with Secretary Duncan and Wheeling students, focusing on STEM’s implications for the future.
About Wheeling High School
Wheeling High School is one of six traditional public high schools in Township High School District 214, Illinois’ second-largest high school district and a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon District. Through STEM-infused coursework, problem-based learning, career-interest workshops, community partnerships, technology access and opportunities to earn college credit and industry certificates, Wheeling High School helps students discover and develop their passion before leaving high school. The school enrolls about 1,800 students who live in Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Wheeling.

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