We share evidence-based K-12 learning strategies that empower you to improve education.
We do not need more "scientists and engineers" when the honest truth is that when students graduate in these professions today, the jobs simply are not there. There is no reason to push a child into a science or engineering field unless that child shows a special or unique interest. What we need is people doing what they are passionate about, which is better served by early training in the arts than anything else. We do what we do best by innovating and creating, not by just being better in science and math - our third-world counterparts can always do those tasks more cost-effectively than we can. I'm one of the engineers who can no longer compete in the global economy anymore. I went to one of the best engineering schools in the country and enjoyed a 15 year career in the field. Is it now because of my training that I can't compete in the global marketplace? - J. in Silicon Valley, California
What do we value? How do we encourage students? What do we promote?
Consider what education emphasizes besides what we formally teach our students. If we want students to gravitate to STEM areas, I believe, we need to promote these. Schools offer special afterschool and non-school day activities to promote sports, student government, and some arts, for example. There are special camps to encourage students to excel in these areas. Prizes and honors are given by many school and community groups to students in these areas. We need special programs to encourage more students to excel and advance in STEM areas. Students need more than another class [or even just that STEM class] as a means to develop themselves in that STEM area. Where are the "summer camps" for STEM-seeking students to help them go beyond the classroom theoretical learning? Where are the community and school acknowledgements of the extra efforts and achievements completed by STEM-interested students [and I am not limiting these opportunities and recognitions to the top students only]? Motivating students to invest themselves in STEM areas can begin in the everyday classroom, but it helps become a passion with opportunities and recognition beyond the classroom.
Kids that have/had parents in the business know that outsourcing/insourcing is replacing US citizens. They work for less and dad or mom was let go after training them. Dad has been sending resumes all over the country for over a year. This doesn't inspire the kids to follow the occupation choice of a parent.
The way to find out what our values really are in the American education system is to ask ourselves two questions: Where do we spend our time? Where do we spend our money?
Time in our schools is currently spent teaching our children how to pass tests; and we spend our money on the tests themselves and on upper level administration salaries (whose school funding depends on how their schools score on tests).
If we want schools to have students with increased interest in science, technology, engineering, and math then we need to:
A) Have focused, career oriented, practical, interactive instruction from an early age. Children need to have guest speakers, interactive activities, and more field trips to see how this knowledge is applied.
B) Have significant scholarship and grant opportunities (for ALL ages and ALL income levels, regardless of race, sex or religion, provided the funds are used for American citizens).
These opportunities should not exist only for minorities, women, students under the age of 22, and people under a lower middle class income of about $20,000/year. (And before anyone gets mad, I am or have been all of the above). Yes, all citizens should be able to go to school up to the 2nd year of college free. (Even Brazil and Jordan do this much for their citizens).
We as a society need to stop sending all our money overseas and keep it at home for health care and education. (Look at Canada--they put their money where their mouths are, and they have the most highly educated society on the planet. And they don't have to bribe their allies either. And their currency is now more valuable than our own.)
There is not a "one size fits all" answer to this question. Schools need to assess what they are currently doing in math and science, and whether or not that is working. What percentage of graduating students enter a working field that is specialized in Math, Science or Engineering? What percentage of graduating students enter college and graduate with a major in one of these areas? We should rely on data and research to strengthen our programs and create relevance for science and math students. I agree that standardized testing has taken first priority in math and science for many schools. These tests should be viewed as a guide only. However, this is difficult given the current pressures from the government that ALL students will pass the tests. On-going, strong, research-based professional development for science and math teachers is where schools should start. This will result in higher quality math and science programs which generates more interest in students.
Marty was the first person to even mention the word computer science. I rarely hear CS referred to directly in STEM discussions. CS should be the T in STEM. K-12 Computer Science Education offers solutions to math mastery. CS education in schools should be a primary focus in this 21st century. But, it will not happen if resources are not allocated to train teachers. Not only will it help students understand math, it can help teachers understand math.