* Companies back White House education move
* Plan calls for 100,000 new U.S. teachers
* US ranks poorly on international education tests
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Backed by 100 CEOs and the first American woman in space, President Barack Obama announced a new initiative on Thursday to pump up the mediocre U.S. performance in math and science.
The “Change the Equation” program was founded by astronaut Sally Ride, former Intel Corp. (INTC.O) Chairman Craig Barrett, Xerox XRX.O CEO Ursula Burns, Time Warner TWX.N Cable CEO Glenn Britt, and Eastman Kodak EK.N CEO Antonio Perez, with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York.
It includes a pledge from 350 science centers and museums to offer 2 million hours of science enrichment to at least 25,000 children and teens in all 50 states, and an initiative from Hewlett Packard (HPQ.N) put employee volunteers into classrooms.
It was released alongside a $1 billion-a-year plan from the president’s science advisers that calls for hiring 100,000 new teachers and setting up 1,000 new science and technology-focused schools.
“Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation,” Obama said in a statement.
The plan is to get U.S. students up-to-speed and interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“International comparisons of our students’ performance in science and mathematics consistently place the United States in the middle of the pack or lower,” the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology said in the report.
“On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in mathematics and science,” the report reads.
“It is important to note that the problem is not just a lack of proficiency among American students; there is also a lack of interest in STEM fields among many students.”
Its recommendations include hiring 100,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers over the next 10 years “who are able to prepare and inspire students,” creating a STEM master teacher corps and founding 1,000 new schools focused on STEM subjects.
Schools currently lack strong teachers in these subjects, the report found, and the United States does not have consistent national standards for math and science education.
“As a result, too many American students conclude early in their education that STEM subjects are boring, too difficult, or unwelcoming, leaving them ill-prepared to meet the challenges that will face their generation, their country and the world,” the report concludes.
The $1 billion a year costs could be covered with little new spending, the report said, and would correspond to $20 per student in kindergarten through 12th grade, or 2 percent of the total $47 billion in federal spending on primary and secondary schools. (Editing by Todd Eastham)