Thursday, November 15, 2012

What is STEM and Why is it Important?

By Toni Buttner, RME Assistant Director
Definition of STEM: Science Technology Engineering Math Problem: 80% of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend upon the mastery of mathematics and scientific knowledge and skills. Demand far outmatches supply, AND, students are not equipped to satisfy this growing need. This infographic taken from Edutopia explains why a STEM education is important in today's society.
Solution: It depends. (Did you expect a clear cut solution?!) This alarm has been sounded and many have answered the call. One event in particular hallmarked the kick off of a solution, the 2012 US News STEM Solutions Summit held here in Dallas in June. This was the first conference of it’s kind in which leaders from K-12 institutions, community colleges, universities and private sector industries came together for three days to begin the discussion of how to interest, retain, and graduate more STEM-proficient students in the U.S. and get them hired.

Hands down, one of the key take-aways agreed upon was: we need partnerships across all constituents. K-12 is beginning to talk to institutions of higher learning to find out what students need to have mastered to be successful in college; meanwhile, the institutions of higher learning are talking to companies to find out what characteristics they are looking for in employees they need to hire - this is called the STEM pipeline. The transition between kindergarten through career, or some call it, birth to career, is a holistic approach of finding out where we are losing students when it comes to proficiency in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Statistics say students begin to mentally drop out by 5th grade and then legally drop out in 9th grade, which is just one of the many ‘leaks’ in the pipeline. The Education Policy and Leadership department of Southern Methodist University tackled this topic specifically at their 2012 annual conference ‘Transitions’.

Get Involved: Do you want to keep up with what is going on in STEM in the state of Texas or nationally? A few great places to start are Educate Texas, Innovate-Educate and STEM Connector.

Have you found a great STEM solution or encountered a STEM success in your classroom? If so, please leave a comment to help others towards the goal of proficient students and connecting them with great jobs!

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