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Report shows need for more promotion of STEM learning in state

Business Examiner

A new report on the state of science, technology, engineering and math education shows that Washington and many states around the country provide insufficient opportunities for STEM education, even though most of the jobs of the future will require STEM skills.

The Vital Signs report from Change the Equation (CTEq) was designed to provide business, education and policy leaders with information and recommendations to promote high-quality STEM learning for all students.

The results for Washington confirmed the deep systemic shortage of STEM education opportunities that prompted business, education and community leaders to form Washington STEM more than a year ago.

Washington STEM is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing excellence, equity, and innovation in STEM education.

At a time when job demand in Washington exceeds job growth, CTEq has found for every 2.1 STEM jobs in Washington, there is one unemployed person. Conversely, for every 3.7 unemployed people, there is one non-STEM job.

“STEM skills open doors in today’s information economy,” said Brad Smith, executive vice president and general counsel at Microsoft, and a member of Washington STEM’s board of directors. “Currently too few students have the opportunity to learn the STEM skills that jobs at technology companies like Microsoft require. The work that Washington STEM and our local partners are doing to identify best practices in STEM teaching is critical to spreading those practices to more students across the state.”

Among the report’s findings is that Washington is moving in the right direction with a commitment to rigorous and clear education standards by adopting the Common Core State Standards and collaborating with 25 other states to design new science standards.

“This data highlights the need to help teachers swiftly and effectively implement the new Common Core State Standards and continue Washington’s leadership in developing the Next Generation Science standards,” said Randy Dorn, Superintendent of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Recommendations to improve STEM learning in Washington include:

  • Help teachers re-imagine STEM education. Provide K-12 teachers with the training and tools they need to implement new Common Core State Standards and Next Gen Science Standards, which foster the critical thinking and real-world problem solving skills needed on the job and to tackle the toughest challenges in the 21st Century.
  • Get Washingtonians to work by increasing and diversifying Washington’s STEM talent pool. To fill the STEM jobs open in Washington today and create the best of jobs of tomorrow, the state needs to prepare and inspire a large and diverse pool of people with the STEM skills in high-demand. This starts with providing all young people with effective STEM teachers and exciting opportunities out of school, graduating students ready for postsecondary success (Washington is estimated to spend over $93 million on remediating community college students according to the CTEq report) and supporting postsecondary students — with a focus on underrepresented and underserved students — to complete STEM degrees.
  • Lead the charge. Washington’s incoming governor should lead the United States in solving the nation’s STEM education challenge. The governor will need strong partners across industry, education, state and federal government, and the community to ensure Washington strengthens its PreK-12-postsecondary education system and creates seamless pathways to jobs.

“Math and science education must not stop when the school bell rings in the afternoon,” said Tre Maxie, executive director of Powerful Schools and a member of the State Board of Education. “Out-of-school programs help bring STEM to life in powerful ways. Prioritizing STEM — both in and out of school — is a way to tackle the opportunity gap, particularly for students who have been historically underrepresented.”

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