May 2, 2019

Baker-Polito Administration announces new STEM District initiative to support educational equity in life sciences education and training

Massachusetts Life Sciences Center awards 5 grants for STEM equipment and supplies totaling nearly $1.14 million to school districts of Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield

Lawrence— Today, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) announced nearly $1.14 million in STEM equipment and professional development funding to be distributed across 36 public middle schools and high schools in the five school districts of Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield. The announcement was made by Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito during an event at Lawrence High School, where she was joined by Lawrence school officials, representatives from all five awardee districts, and other life sciences and educational stakeholders for the announcement event.

“These investments will directly impact the education of thousands of young people across the Commonwealth, unlocking new opportunities to learn, gain skills, and drive interest in a career in the life sciences,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “With these investments, we’re ensuring the next generation is provided the necessary tools and dynamic space necessary to compete for the exciting jobs in high growth and high paying sectors.”

“Our administration continues to engage Massachusetts students in hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math, preparing them for success at the middle and high school levels and strengthening the Massachusetts workforce,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By expanding opportunities for students to be exposed early and often to STEM, we can support their development as learners and cultivate their passions for a career in Massachusetts’ thriving life sciences ecosystem.”

The MLSC is administering the new pilot program that awards grants to large under-resourced school districts. This district-centric approach supports comprehensive and strategic plans for adequately supporting STEM education across multiple schools. By awarding districts, rather than individual schools, the MLSC can provide professional development opportunities that serve teachers from multiple schools at the same time and increase engagement at the district-level to allow for greater understanding of community wide resource needs and inequities in order to better address skills gaps.

“We are very proud of the investments made by this Administration to strengthen and expand opportunities for students in the STEM fields across Massachusetts,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “We are committed to the growth and development of life sciences clusters throughout the state, and this funding is part of our Administration’s significant investment in a workforce ready for the jobs of the innovation economy here in Massachusetts.”

“These investments in STEM represents the promise of new opportunities for hands-on learning for students across Massachusetts,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Michael J. Heffernan. “This funding represents a long term commitment by the Baker-Polito Administration to invest in the future workforce of Massachusetts and expand the Commonwealth’s life sciences talent pipeline.”

The schools receiving funding have either not previously received grants from the MLSC or received significantly less funding relative to other schools, have disproportionately higher populations of underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students, and serve student populations that have historically underperformed in STEM subjects.

“We look forward to working with the schools and teachers to ensure that as many students as possible are provided hands-on learning to grow their skills and knowledge to prepare for a career in the Massachusetts innovation economy,” said MLSC President and CEO Travis McCready. “Within these school districts are inspiring young people who hold the key to our Commonwealth remaining home to the most robust talent pool in the country.”

Lieutenant Governor Polito joined numerous state and local officials at Lawrence High School’s Campus Lecture Hall for the announcement of the STEM funding. Lawrence officials offered insights into how these investments will positively impact their community:

“I want to thank the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito for their dedication to furthering STEM education throughout the Commonwealth,” said Mayor Daniel Rivera. “Congratulations to the hard working faculty and students at Lawrence High School on receiving the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center STEM grant.”

“We know good teaching and learning requires the right tools and resources, and this is especially true of good science education,” said Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia Paris. “We’re grateful to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and the administration of Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito for making this grant and the support it provides possible.”

“I’m thrilled to see that the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has chosen Lawrence High School to receive this grant,” said Senator Barry Finegold. “The funding will provide new equipment and materials for the science labs and create new curriculum that encourages students to pursue the life sciences. Not only will this increase Lawrence High students’ interest in STEM, which can lead to rewarding and high-paying jobs, it will also continue to develop English language skills, which are critical for the overwhelming majority of Lawrence students for whom English is not their first language”

“We live in a more demanding and competitive society in which if we need a well-trained workforce. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is a vital school subject that can provide the tools that our students need to succeed, and to strengthen our future workforce to compete internationally, and to continue expanding our global economy,” said Representative Marcos A. Devers. “According to the US Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration:  ‘STEM workers command higher wages, earning 26 percent more than their non- STEM counterparts.’ The importance of STEM education programs and a STEM qualified workforce is vital to the economic growth of our city, our Commonwealth and the United States of America.”

“This support from MLSC goes beyond equipment,” said Representative Christina Minicucci. “It’s about investing in the curiosity and professional development of our students who otherwise may have never thought a career in life sciences was a possibility. This grant will open doors for these students, our next generation of innovators in the field.”

“Our district has placed an increased emphasis on STEM education in recent years and this $130,000 grant provided by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center will act as a tremendous boost in our efforts. Prioritizing biology programming and devoting further resources to it at LHS will allow us to ensure our students are as competitive as possible with their peers across the commonwealth, the country, and the world. Thank you to Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for this incredible support for our students,” said Representative Frank Moran.

Leaders from the other four school districts reacted to today’s announcement:

“The Boston Public Schools is thrilled to receive this grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to support rigorous instructional experiences in biotechnology, which will further expand the district’s career technical education pathways and science instruction,” said Boston Public Schools Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “This grant will help provide our students with the skills necessary to compete for higher education opportunities and life sciences career options while supporting the training and ongoing professional development of our science educators.”

“East Boston High School is overwhelmingly appreciative to receive continued support through the MA Life Sciences Center grant along with partnering schools,” said East Boston High School Headmaster Phillip R. Brangiforte Headmaster on behalf of his team. “This new funding opportunity will be instrumental in supporting science instruction both in the district and in our Biotechnology Career and Technical Education program.  This grant helps our students thrive by providing the supplies necessary for the students to have better access to STEM skills, internships, colleges, and scholarships. We are thrilled to continue to grow, learn, and partner with MLSC.”

“MLSC’s vision is transformative for Brockton’s children, community and future of the Massachusetts life sciences ecosystem,” said Brockton High School Science Department Head Jonathan Shapiro. “This award will help provide a cohesive, engaging and rigorous science experience for all of Brockton’s grade 6-8 students. The focus on their scientific foundation will enable our students to achieve and aspire in the sciences throughout their educations and careers.”

“Lowell is extremely grateful for the opportunities that the Massachusetts Life Science Center grant funding will provide for our students,” said Lowell Public Schools Coordinator of Science and Social Studies, K-12 Martha Cohn. “This will include updated equipment for our middle schools, STEM summer opportunities for very deserving students and most instrumentally, the implementation of a Biomedical Science program at Lowell High School.”

“This award will provide the Springfield Public Schools with state of the art equipment and materials as well as professional development,” said Springfield Public Schools Director of Science Ronald P. St. Amand. “Through the grant program our teachers and students will work with researchers from Baystate Medical Center and the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute. Working with Dr. Sallie Schneider students will research how exposure to environmental factors, such as chemicals in personal healthcare products might increase the risk of metastasis. The integration of contemporary scientific problems such as this into our instruction will provide our students with exciting opportunities to learn and apply disciplinary core ideas of science, engage in the science and engineering practices, and even make meaningful contributions to science and/or their communities through their investigations.”

The new awards will build upon historical MLSC support for high schools and middle schools across the Commonwealth. Since 2011, the MLSC has administered five rounds of its STEM Equipment and Supplies Program, which has enabled vocational-technical and economically disadvantaged public schools to purchase necessary lab equipment and supplies, as well as state-of-the-art tools and technology to better train and prepare students for life sciences careers. The program also offered funding to support teacher professional development related to curriculum implementation and equipment training.

Through this program, the MLSC has awarded more than $16.5 million to 170 high schools, middle schools, and organizations throughout Massachusetts, and has leveraged more than $1 million in cash and in-kind matching funds from industry partners. The program has served schools in 13 of the 14 Massachusetts counties and 24 of the 26 Gateway Cities. Moreover, 45 percent of students attending eligible schools have gained access to new equipment through the program and 23 percent of all Massachusetts public school students attend a school that has received an MLSC grant.

With a focus on education equity, the new awards will support students in economically disadvantaged communities who have underperformed in STEM subjects compared to national and state averages. All of the districts receiving funding have experienced a lower passing rate on the Science MCAS exams and a significantly higher failure rate than the rest of the state.

The five school districts have at least 20 percent more students than the state average who are economically disadvantaged. These communities also have a higher percentage of underrepresented and minority student populations. By doubling down on its efforts to support diverse student populations, the MLSC remains committed in helping produce a more diverse, and therefore stronger, workforce in order for Massachusetts to remain a global leader in the life sciences.

The nearly $1.14 million awarded to the Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Lowell, and Springfield school districts will directly serve a total of nearly 12,000 students.

In June 2018, Governor Baker signed An Act providing continued investment in the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth to invest up to $623 million in bond authorization and tax credits over five years in education, research and development and workforce training. This legislation will serve to reinforce the Baker-Polito Administration’s commitment to ensuring Massachusetts’ leadership in the life sciences sector.

Overview of proposals receiving MLSC funding

Boston Public Schools (9 high schools) – $421,668
Previous funding from the MLSC has helped establish the Boston’s first Biotechnology Pathway Program at East Boston High School. The district is proposing to further develop and grow the program, while using it as a model for the creation of new Biotech Pathway programs at New Mission High School and Jeremiah Burke High School. Teachers from these schools will participate in summer externships at MIT. MLSC funding will also provide six other high schools with biotechnology equipment to support standards-based labs and activities, as well as professional development for teachers. Biology teachers from across the district worked in collaboration with the MassBioEd Foundation, Amgen, and Vertex to develop the curriculum.

Brockton Public Schools (7 middle schools) – $200,000
While the MLSC has previously awarded Brockton High School three grants and currently sponsors an after-school lab-training program at the school that prepares students for internships, Brockton’s middle schools had never applied for MLSC funding. At this level, there is a critical need for equipment upgrades and science curriculum transformation to prepare students for success in high school. The district plans to adopt comprehensive and innovative science curriculum for all seven of their middle schools.

Lawrence Public Schools (1 high school) – $134,373
Lawrence High School’s labs are vastly under-resourced and unable to meet the needs of students in the school’s biology program. MLSC funding will outfit the school’s science labs with new equipment and materials that will allow for hands-on, inquiry-based lessons designed to engage and generate curiosity and excitement for students. New curriculum will not only encourage students to pursue the life sciences but also develop their English language skills (83 percent of students have a first language other than English).

Lowell Public Schools (1 high school and 9 middle schools) – $65,317
Lowell High School will receive cost-share funding from the MLSC to fully implement the two-course Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Science program, which was recently initiated with a $50,000 grant from the One8 Foundation. MLSC funding will provide the school with laptops and other equipment and technology needed for the Biomedical program and the existing PLTW Engineering course that was introduced last year with a prior One8 Foundation grant. Lowell’s nine middle schools will each receive access to full classroom sets of microscopes, which will have projection capability in order to better engage and inspire students, particularly English Language Learners that make up 39% of student body. The district will also receive funding to support and expand IDEA Camp, a summer program offering STEM workshops at UMass Lowell.

Springfield Public Schools (4 high schools and 5 middle schools) – $316,697
The Springfield Public Schools will train teachers and equip middle and high school classrooms and labs in order to meet new state standards. The training will be done in partnership with the Museum Institute for Teaching Science, the Baystate/Springfield Educational Partnership, and the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute. Four high schools will purchase sets of microscopes with cameras, along with materials and supplies needed to conduct biomedical research. Students will also participate in life sciences career exploration courses and activities. New science and engineering equipment for five Springfield middle schools will also be purchased to better prepare students for high school and beyond.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center
The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts, home to the most verdant and productive life sciences ecosystem in the world.  Through public-private funding initiatives, the MLSC supports innovation, education, research and development, commercialization, and manufacturing activities in the fields of biopharma, medical device, diagnostics and digital health.  Since its creation in 2007, the MLSC has strategically deployed over $700 million in Massachusetts, through a combination of grants, loans, capital infrastructure investments, tax incentives and workforce programs.  These investments have created thousands of jobs and propelled the development of new therapies, devices and scientific advancements that are improving patient health and well-being in Massachusetts and beyond.