Hoeven Highlights West Fargo STEM Education Initatives, Cosponsors Bill to Give Flexibility to Local Schools for STEM Ed

Senator Visits Teacher of the Year's Class, Lunches with Freedom Elementary School Students

WEST FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven visited several West Fargo schools today to highlight the district’s efforts to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at a time when Fargo and the Red River Valley are driving an agenda for technology growth and innovation. The senator also discussed legislation he is cosponsoring that will give schools more flexibility to initiate STEM-based curricula to position students for the jobs of the future.

In the course of the day, Hoeven visited West Fargo School District’s STEM Center, as well as a new elementary school and the sites of two schools still under construction, which he said is a reflection of a growing, dynamic community with a focus on the future. The senator was accompanied by West Fargo Schools Superintendent Dr. David Flowers and a representative of John Deere & Company, a partner in the STEM Center program.

Hoeven is working in Washington to support West Fargo’s and other school districts’ efforts by cosponsoring the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which gives schools, administrators and teachers flexibility to implement programs like the STEM Center to prepare students for the careers of the future. In North Dakota, the legislation will help to drive jobs, innovation and economic growth in North Dakota’s technology center. The North Dakota Education Association, North Dakota School Board Association and the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders support the bill.

The school visits complement Hoeven’s two-day focus this week on technology-based business growth in Fargo and the Red River Valley and underscore the importance of strong STEM education programs to support future growth in the technology sector. Events included an announcement Monday by PRACS Institute, a high-tech early phase clinical research organization, that it is returning to Fargo, and John Deere & Company’s ribbon cutting this morning of the new John Deere Electronic Solutions facility, a $22 million high-tech facility in Fargo.

“Not only is the West Fargo community growing, but it’s also positioning itself for the future by preparing young people at an early age for the high-paying careers that our technology sector is creating right now,” Hoeven said. “Good schools produce skilled workers and innovative thinkers, and those in turn produce the kinds of successful high-tech businesses that are flourishing in Fargo and the Red River Valley.”

The district’s STEM Center is a STEM-focused extension of Cheney Middle School that opened its doors to 165 West Fargo sixth and seventh graders in the fall of 2009. Teachers and administrators have implemented a program that makes education relevant to the real-world by engaging students through rigorous, inquiry-based learning. Principal Michelle Weber says the educational goal is to make sure every student can collaborate to solve problems using creativity and engineering design process.

Due to high demand, the program expanded in 2010 and now houses approximately 250 sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The STEM Center has partnership agreements with a number of businesses and universities, including John Deere and Co., Microsoft, Sanford Health, North Dakota State University and the North Dakota State College of Science.

At a news conference, Hoeven spoke about a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study released earlier this year that ranked North Dakota first in STEM jobs growth. The state finished at the top in a number of growth categories, including short-term jobs, long-term jobs, gross state product and per capita personal income. With 5.4 percent growth, North Dakota was among the fastest growing states in the nation for STEM jobs from 2009 to 2011.

The senator also cited his 2003 Centers of Excellence Initiative, which has attracted public-sector, private-sector partnerships in technology, aerospace, electronics, advanced manufacturing and other STEM-related jobs. Hoeven said as the state’s economy continues to grow and diversify, STEM education beginning in the early grades will be critical to sustaining North Dakota’s economic momentum.

Following Hoeven’s visit to the STEM Center, the senator toured the sites of two new West Fargo schools, the Sheyenne High School and Liberty Middle School. The tour also included a visit to the Freedom Elementary School, where the senator joined students for lunch. Freedom Elementary is West Fargo’s newest neighborhood school, serving 550 students in grades one through five.

The tour concluded with a stop at the Cheney Middle School, where the senator visited the classroom of North Dakota’s 2013 teacher of the year, eighth grade language arts teacher Andrea Noonan. Noonan is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English and will represent North Dakota in the national Teacher of the Year competition. Colleagues describe her as “a dynamo” and “a thirsty learner.”

The Freedom, Liberty and Sheyenne projects are all part of an $82.5 million construction bonding measure approved by voters in 2011 as a result of a growing student population and the need for more classroom space.

Education Tour