Gov. Phil Bredesen on Friday announced a partnership with the Battelle Memorial Institute to establish a network of math and science programs in Tennessee schools.
Bredesen said the program called the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network will promote teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and math.
The program will be similar to Battelle's partnership in its home state of Ohio, where it has managed a network of school districts, colleges and universities and private sector partners. Bredesen said the initiative will be part of Tennessee's application for a share of the $5 billion in federal "Race to the Top" money.
In a presentation to a science class at Mt. Juliet High School, the Democratic governor said Tennessee's efforts to obtain federal money will be "very, very competitive."
"If we can succeed in that it would be a really big deal for education," he said. "It's a lot of money _ hundreds and millions of dollars _ that would come in."
Bredesen didn't say how much of the federal stimulus money Tennessee would ask for.
"But I promise you that I won't under-ask," he said. "Far better to over-ask and get turned back a little bit than to fail to go for it."
The Race to the Top program offers money to states that find innovative, ambitious ways to implement "coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform."
Bredesen was joined at the announcement by astronaut Barry Wilmore, a Mt. Juliet native who piloted the Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station last month.
Wilmore, who wore a blue flight suit, said the emphasis on science and math will help students achieve greater success.
"Because you don't stand up here in a blue suit if you don't have teachers and individuals that help you along the way," he said.
Bredesen, who earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Harvard, agreed.
"It is a wonderful discipline for people who want to do anything," he said. "The kinds of critical thinking skills you develop in the process of learning about physics and mathematics and chemistry are applicable anywhere."
Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle is the world's largest nonprofit research and development organization. Battelle co-manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory in a joint venture with the University of Tennessee.
A May report by Battelle, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Biotechnology Institute found that students are showing less interest in taking life sciences and science courses and that high schools are doing a poor job of preparing students for college-level science.
Bredesen said he's spoken with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland about creating exchanges between the two states' students and teachers.
"We view this as not only a partnership with Battelle in Tennessee, but also with Ohio," he said.