Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Implementation of STEM Education

(Luis Valentino)  During the last two years of his presidency, President Obama has dedicated increased attention to STEM education, believing that it is a critical approach to improving K - 12 education. The president's  interest is not to turn every student into a scientist, a mathematician, a programmer, or an engineer, but to equip them with important skill sets, including critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, advanced organization, etc.  As we consider what challenges our students are facing in this 21st century, defining STEM education, and the role that STEM should play in the education of all students, is an important step that will help create a useful framework for schools and districts.

An important aspect of that clarity will include looking at issues of access, equity, and inclusion.  Establishing who will gain access to STEM education opportunities, as well as what concerted efforts will be tried to bring historically marginalized student populations into the STEM fold have become part of the President's narrative. A goal, inspired by the White House and the US Department of Education includes “…fostering an open and diverse scientific community that draws from an array of unique experiences and viewpoints...”  The strategy for achieving this goal, includes,
  • Focusing on underrepresented groups, across all levels
  • Providing girls and young women experiences in STEM fields
  • Expanding the use of role models to help set the standard in education
  • Making meaningful uses of technology a part of students’ learning experiences

These are steps that provides students with expanded learning opportunities, narrows the achievement gap, and helps prepare more students for college and career opportunities.  But how do we make it happen?  How will teachers and schools acquire the knowledge base and skill sets needed to make STEM education a reality for all?  How can school districts develop their capacity to support a STEM education strategy that is comprehensive, rigorous, and sustainable?  These and other implementation questions will need to be answered as districts work to ensure that all of their students obtain access a STEM education that prepares them to acquire the appropriate knowledge base and skill sets to succeed in college and career, who can thrive in the 21st century.

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