The tech sector is booming, and hungry for skilled workers. With its promise of ample opportunity and high salaries, it seems like a logical direction for STEM-savvy students to pursue. However, according to a recent article in TIME magazine, the U.S. education system is doing a sub-par job of training students for computer science careers.
While most STEM fields have seen an uptick in growth over the past two decades, computer science stands alone as having experienced a drop in student participation over the same period of time. This country’s large, change-averse education system may be a big part of the problem. Despite its increasing relevance in the world into which today’s students are graduating, computer science hasn’t made its way into most — or even many — classrooms in a meaningful way. Having appeared on the scene relatively recently, computer science hasn’t yet managed to penetrate the bureaucracy to take root as a core course in the vast majority of districts.
So what’s it going to take to turn the tide and integrate computer science more completely into K-12 education? “If educators want to scale up their cause, they’re going to need to create a national framework,” according to the TIME article. The Computer Science Education Act, introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), could be a step in the right direction.
Read more about it here.
See on techland.time.com
When the subject turns to engineering, too many students’ eyes glaze over. But far from being a boring subject, many engineering fields require vast amounts of creativity.
An article in yesterday’s Albuquerque Journal makes the point that students need to get the full picture of engineering — and other science fields — and realize that a lot of what STEM is about is creating new things. “In a survey of teens, we find that they have high regard for engineering as a profession, but don’t know what engineers do or how much they make,” said Intel Education Manager Carlos Contreras, lamenting the lack of well-qualified applicants for STEM jobs as a significant problem for tech companies like Intel.
Read Albuquerque Journal’s full article on creativity in STEM fields here.
See on www.abqjournal.com
An often overlooked force for good in the battle to increase students’ pursuit of STEM subjects? Their parents.
A recent study from the Association for Psychological Science (APS) revealed that targeting parents with information about the importance of STEM education in high school boosted enrollment of students in related courses. Encouragement from parents is particularly important in the last two years of high school, when many advanced math and science courses are optional.
The APS study showed that parental understanding of the impact of their children’s high school course selections on their college — and later, career — paths resulted in more informed oversight of their students’ course choices. The study consisted of nothing more than a modest information campaign, targeting the same group of parents with brochures at two points in their children’s high school career, suggesting that tapping parental influence is surprisingly easy. “Although some people question whether parents wield any influence, we think of parents as an untapped resource,” said lead study author Judith Harackiewicz. “This study shows that it is possible to help parents help their teens make academic choices that will prepare them for the future.”
See on www.psychologicalscience.org
Consider this sobering statement, made by Bill Gates in 2005: “When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow.” Headline after headline proclaims that STEM education in the US is broken. But what, in fact, is really wrong with it?
A recent article in Slate tackles that question by uncovering five common myths and misconceptions that present barriers to STEM education reform.
Myth #1: “American schools have deteriorated in the past 30 or 40 years, as demonstrated by our poor performance on international assessments of math and science achievement. We need to restore American elementary and secondary education to their previous glory.” Slate takes the viewpoint that, far from having deteriorated, the American education system wasn’t all that great in the first place. “Incorrectly believing that American students used to excel hampers our reform efforts,” the article points out. “It makes the challenge of improving STEM education seem easier than it is.”
Read on to consider the four other myths that Slate puts forth in this interesting article.
See on www.slate.com
Carlos Cunha, a teacher of physics and chemistry at an upper secondary school in Setúbal, Portugal, is leading an online discussion event this week about science education. Specifically, participants are engaging in discussion about communicating innovative science teaching practices through social media. Today is day two of the event, focusing on improving dissemination of science project results to teachers. The third and final day of the online event is tomorrow, when the conversation will focus on what kind of information is most important to communicate to teachers in the information dissemination process.
See on desire.eun.org
With an estimated 14 million people currently out of work in the US, how can there still be a shortage of qualified workers to fill STEM positions? The disconnect was one topic discussed at last week’s STEM Solutions 2012 leadership summit in Dallas. Leaders seemed to agree that inspiring students to follow an educational path in STEM subjects is key to solving the crisis. But the question of the role that companies might play in enticing and helping to cultivate talent is still unanswered.
In terms of where, specifically, the talent gaps are, experts are divided. Many cite math as an area in which American students are lacking, pointing to the emphasis on standardized testing — rather than real-world applications — as the measure of our students’ math ability.
Several possible solutions to the problem of the shortage of trained STEM workers were voiced at the summit. Among them: creating university/industry partnerships, promoting STEM careers among students, and enhancing STEM education in grades K-12. Some participants felt that companies should bear some of the responsibility for communicating their needs clearly and coming up with innovative hiring practices and training programs. “Industry really needs to engage in a much closer relationship with educational institutions,” said Melinda Hamilton (photo, above), director of Idaho National Laboratory’s education programs. “They have to share their strategic plans. They have to share their growth projections and why they’re predicting this area will grow. They have to be involved in saying not just ‘Here’s what we need,’ but also how we get it.”
See on sciencecareers.sciencemag.org
Community colleges are emerging as an ever more important piece of the STEM education puzzle. Speaking at the 2012 U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit, Uri Treisman, math professor at University of Texas-Austin, said, “A 10, 15 percent increase in [STEM degree] completion would solve our national problem.” One challenge in getting to that level of increase lies in the disconnect between high school STEM programs and university-level expectations. Positioned between these two entities, community colleges have the potential to provide skills that are lacking among recent high school graduates and prepare them for the rigors of college-level STEM programs.
See on www.usnews.com
Despite the heavily-reported need for U.S. students to graduate from high school with sharp STEM skills to meet work force demand, a report released today suggests that we have a long way to go.
For the first time ever, the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered to 4th, 8th, and 12th graders featured hands-on and interactive computer-based science activities. The results are sobering, especially those linked to students’ ability to apply the data they collected to explain or apply their findings. “While I’m happy to see the vast majority of students [tested] were able to make straightforward observations, I’m not particularly happy to see a smaller number know what data to collect in an experiment,” said NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley. “This points to something we need to work on in the future.”
See on www.edweek.org
The University of Maryland Baltimore County is a STEM machine, due to the vision and leadership of Freeman Hrabowski. Be sure to check out this great “60 Minutes” segment about Hrabowski and his success at making UMBC a powerhouse in the sciences.
Acton-Boxborough High School ranked #7 in U.S. News & World Report’s list of best high schools for STEM — the highest of any school in Massachusetts.
The school sent two projects to this year’s Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair (held May 4 & 5 at MIT), both of which took first-place awards: Jacob Johnson’s “Novel Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis in Malignant Breast Cancer” and Ruifan Pei’s “Electrochemical Determination of Alkaline Phosphatase Activity.”
Wayland High School followed close behind in the best high schools for STEM rankings, achieving a #10 spot in the report, with Lexington High and Brookline High also winning high marks, landing at #15 and #30, respectively.
Nearly 500 schools were evaluated for the report. This article explains the methodology that U.S. News & World Report used to determine rankings: www.usnews.com