Read these statistics and see what you think about President Obama’s desire to provide our schools with a rich set of resources to improve STEM education in our public schools. These statistics come from the National Math and Science Initiative research.
Our need to improve STEM or STEAM is critical:
- Only 29 percent of American fourth grade students, 32 percent of eighth grade students, and 18 percent of 12th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in science.
- About a third of high school mathematics students and two-thirds of those enrolled in physical science have teachers who either did not major in the subject in college or are not certified to teach it.
- Among low-income students, 70 percent of their middle school mathematics teachers majored in some other subject in college.
- Those undergraduates who leave science and engineering majors for other majors are often among the most highly qualified college entrants, and they are disproportionately women and students of color.
- The U.S. ranks 16th of 17 nations in the proportion of 24-year-olds who earn degrees in natural science or engineering as opposed to other majors.
The challenge is significant. We can make progress if we are willing to invest in improving our math, science, engineering, and computing programs in our schools. I believe we must look seriously at how we teach these curricula. If we are only interested in pushing out content and testing knowledge acquisition with high-stakes tests, we will fail our students. We must explore inquiry-based or project-based instruction as strategies to teach students and we need to develop more authentic ways to assess student learning. Critical and creative thinking and problem-solving skills will not be effectively developed without addressing both the curriculum and assessment. Our policy makers do not understand these issues well enough, so we have to get top educational thinkers at the table when it comes to the design and implementation of a new direction.