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Academy urgently needed

Published 10:41pm Thursday, November 29, 2012

The importance of improving American students’ performance in science, mathematics and related subjects has been ingrained in the national consciousness the last couple years, so much so that the “STEM” acronym, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, has quickly become cliché.

But overuse of the acronym equals emphasis on the topic, which is a good thing. In a 2009 study, American students ranked 25th among 34 countries on math tests, raising serious doubts about this country’s ability to continue to compete in a global economy.

Much has been said about the need to fix the problem, but few are doing anything about it. Two of those who are, however, are right here in Suffolk.

Judy Stewart and Caroline Martin have spearheaded the Virginia STEAM Academy project (the A in this slightly less-clichéd acronym stands for “applied”). Stewart sent Martin a concept paper in the fall of 2010, and the women got to work.

In only two years, they have made considerable progress. They have settled on a potential location, the former Fort Monroe site. Nine colleges and universities, as well as local businesses that deal in the targeted academic areas, have signed on to help. And one of the highest hurdles, securing state funding, happened nearly a full year ago when the General Assembly awarded a $200,000 planning grant.

The magnet boarding school would be free to students through a mix of public and private funding. It’s just what is needed to help rocket Virginia students to the top, both nationally and internationally.

We applaud Stewart and Martin for their dedicated leadership. The pair have just the right tools to make this project successful, and we hope they will do so quickly. As part of the solution to America’s problem with math and science, it is urgently needed.


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