Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan encouraged today's educators to be mindful of encouraging today's primary and secondary students to take more of an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
He specifically cited a report by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recommending that educators facilitate more interest in STEM to address a growing disparity in achievement in these areas by American students.
The report mentions that K-12 students from various ethnic backgrounds ie., Hispanic, African American, Native American, as well as, women have little or no representation in the STEM fields.
Lack of interest, and underachievement are stated as causes for a diminishing pool of students pursuing careers in these fields. Students that underachieve, particularly in large school districts such as Los Angeles, are placed in special education programs that may further limit their exposure to opportunities in math and science.
In addition to diminishing interest in STEM education, the report indicates that 'less than one third' of American eighth grade students demonstrate 'proficiency in science and mathematics.' These findings suggest that STEM education must start early in order for students to advance and develop interest and proficiency.
Today American students lag statistically behind other nations in STEM education which could be catastrophic to America's future scientific prowess and advancement. In today's growing technology market, such statistics could be catastrophic to America's economic future as well.
More importantly, the report suggest that teaches may not be adequately trained to teach STEM subjects to K-12 students, and thus fail to inspire students to achieve in these areas.
Education reform is at the top of, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, established by the Obama Administration, which provides grants for research and development of K-12 education, particularly in STEM. Such reforms would include providing effective training and teaching strategies for teachers in the STEM subjects, along with a reward program for those that excel.
More importantly, the report stresses the need to utilize an existing, valuable resource - the 'leadership' of today's scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists.
Organizations such as, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, or AIAA, have initiated programs that provide school districts with STEM docents who speak at schools with the purpose of inspiring interest in young students.
The focus of the institute's docent program is to provide hands-on demonstrations, models, and fun, informative talks to interest children in the engineering sciences such as, space technology, rocketry, aviation, communications, etc..
In essence, the President's report indicates that America's future science and technological advances rely heavily on the achievements of today's K-12 students. Innovations in science must begin early in the classroom and in the footsteps of today's leadership.
For more information on AIAA's docent program for school districts in your area, please contact Cynthia Lorene, (the author of this article).
Copyright © 2010 by Cynthia Lorene