Panel: STEM education crisis stems from unsupported teachers

By Meris Stansbury, Online Editor
September 14th, 2011

In the president's FY12 budget, $206 million would go to STEM training programs.

According to a panel of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education experts and industry leaders, the United States is still falling short of producing the number of STEM graduates needed to fill 21st-century jobs—and panelists said the problem can be traced to to a lack of support for teachers.

At a Sept. 12 Brookings Institution forum in Washington, D.C., Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, began the discussion by providing the latest data on the STEM workforce to help paint a current picture of STEM education in the United States.

The data, which come from a recent series of STEM reports published by the Economics & Statistics Administration, further confirm what education stakeholders widely know: blacks, Hispanics, and women tend to shy away from STEM careers, while white males and Asians are more likely to enter a STEM field. (For specific numbers and graphs, see the reports.) Blank said it’s not just important to encourage students to enter the STEM fields so that companies can benefit—it’s good for communities as well.

“Even during this current recession, STEM jobs are stable. Just in 2010 alone, 7.6 million workers had a STEM-related job, and that number is increasing,” Blank explained.

Also, jobs in the STEM fields have a higher average salary than the average salary of all non-STEM jobs, she said—referring to this statistic as a “wage premium.”

“In 2010, there was a 25-percent wage premium for those in STEM [fields]. And for women in STEM, that wage premium increases dramatically—which makes it even more interesting that more women aren’t in STEM jobs,” she said.

The conversation then shifted to why more graduates aren’t entering STEM-related fields. In other words, asked Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies for the Brookings Institution, “What can we do?”

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3 Responses to “Panel: STEM education crisis stems from unsupported teachers”

September 15, 2011

The recuitment of highly qualified professionals into education is one of many good initiatives that can begin to take place. It would require support from the government, businesses and institutions of higher education.

September 15, 2011

So how do we make it less complicated for teachers to support STEM initiatives and integrating it into classrooms? Our STEM Solutions Manager – and an engineer – Diana Laboy-Rush – suggests that project-based learning can be an excellent tool for STEM, particularly for elementary teachers who are very good at teaching students, but need to be supported to integrate STEM. She offers this white paper on the research behind project-based learning as a successful strategy for STEM. Download it here:

We agree with lcallister1. A pilot study conducted by the Center for Research in Educational Policy found that middle school teachers who completed a STEM professional development course on global climate change, offered by PBS TeacherLine, were more likely than comparison teachers to increase their use of STEM teaching strategies and techniques. Participating teachers particularly reported increasing their use of problem-based, hands-on, and cooperative learning. PBS Teacherline feels that these results point to the need for STEM professional development opportunities for teachers and so we’re working to build our STEM catalog of courses and modules to support teachers in this effort.