Better math, science education key for '05

January 3, 2005


What's the most important tech matter for the New Year? "Math and science education," says Steve Mitchell, chairman of the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science (TAMS). "Algebra is one of the key predictors of whether a student will drop out of school," adds Mitchell. "Those who give up typically do because they can't do the math."

There's a lot at stake for the students and our city. Jobs are being outsourced to India, China and Eastern Europe. To stay competitive, we need a skilled work force. That means better math and science skills.

A study done by Robert Weissbourd for CEOs for Cities, a group that supports urban environments, illustrates the point. Cities that succeed economically, according to Weissbourd, are the ones with the most college degrees per capita. It's hard to get a college degree without preparation in math and science.

Upgrading teachers' skills

Marty Gartzman, chief math and science officer for Chicago Public Schools, understands the issue. "The math and science needs of our graduates have greatly expanded with the prevalence of technology use in the world," says Gartzman. "That means teachers need to upgrade their skills to reflect these changes."

That's why TAMS and Mitchell's work is so important. Keeping math and science teaching skills on the cutting edge can motivate students to learn, reduce drop-out rates and lead to a lifetime of better paying jobs.

As the successful former president and COO of Lester B. Knight & Associates, the global engineering consultancy, Mitchell could be playing golf in Florida or Arizona. Instead, he's raising money to assure Chicago's kids get a proper math and science education.

Mitchell's working hard behind the scenes in Springfield, at City Hall and at Chicago Public Schools to make the case for improved teacher training and continuing emphasis on math and science education.

Mitchell took over as chairman of the TAMS board in mid 2002. Located at 35th and Normal, just west of U.S. Cellular Field, the academy provides elementary school teachers with on-going education in state-of-the-art techniques for teaching math and science. About 250 teachers will benefit from the program this year, according to Mitchell.

Gartzman expects the relationship with TAMS to grow. "We're on the cusp of developing a public-private partnership with TAMS which will enhance our ability to support our schools to champion math and science," he says.

He expects TAMS to play an important role supporting the next generation of CPS schools opening as charter schools and contract schools as part of the Renaissance 2010 initiative begun by Mayor Daley and CPS boss Arnie Duncan.

"Steve has been a great champion of math and science education in Chicago," adds Gartzman. "He's worked on increasing attention to math and science education in our schools, and he's led our effort to improve science lab facilities."

That's a welcome thought for the New Year.

Burson promotes Kutz

Kevin Kutz is pumped up about Chicago's tech prospects in the New Year. Today, Kutz, 43, will be named to head the Midwest Technology practice for Burson Marsteller, the global communications agency that boasts a slew of leading technology organizations as clients. He's also a veteran of the team that brought technology fame to Massachusetts.

Kutz just landed Menlo Park-based SRI as a client. He also has Boston-based Novell and Cincinnati's think3 under his wing.

Locally, Kutz serves technology distributor CDW and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"I think this is going to be a turning point year for the technology industry and for Chicago," says Kutz, "There's a lot of opportunity."

Kutz believes Chicago must act with confidence, and think globally.

"We need to shed the notion we take a back seat to other communities," he says. "Chicago is one of the best areas in the world to launch, grow and maintain a technology company."

During the dot-com boom, Kutz helped Lante Corp. founder Mark Tebbe expand his firm. He also helped Massachusetts Gov. William Weld build that state's reputation as a technology leader.

"I want to do the same thing here," adds Kutz.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.


 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners