WATERTOWN—At the 8th annual Perkins School for the Blind Science Fair on May 3, Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, came from Washington, D.C., to carry the president's message encouraging both students and teachers to focus on science and mathematics disciplines.
"The president has said that STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—are so critical to our country," Yudin told the a gathering of about 100 students and staff, including more than two dozen students who submitted to the science fair. "It's critical for our ability to compete in the global economy. That we need more scientists."
Students from Perkins Secondary, Lower School and Deafblind Programs demonstrated to Yudin and Science Fair judges their science projects that ranged from measuring audio amplification of tin cans, to exploding soda bottles, to exploring biodiversity in succulent plants. Judges included a Dr. Amy Bower, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution physical oceanographer who is blind.
At the afternoon awards assembly, Yudin expanded his message to include all aspects of education for students with disabilities. The United States currently ranks 14th worldwide in college completions. President Obama's goal to be first in the world by 2020. "There's no way we're going to reach that goal," said Yudin, "if we don't do better at improving outcomes for the millions of kids with disabilities in this country that absolutely can and should graduate from high school, college-career-ready, and go on to succeed in post-secondary education."
Yudin observed Perkins education programs in a local public school and toured the Watertown campus, including the Lower School and Grousbeck Center for Students & Technology, which utilize state-of-the-art technology to give students relevant, accessible learning experiences. "Perkins has been at the cutting edge of special education for 184 years," said Perkins President Steven Rothstein. "It is vital that our leaders in Washington witness first-hand that students who are visually impaired have amazing potential, equal to that of their sighted peers. We are honored that Secretary Yudin visited with Perkins scholars."