U.S. ramps up efforts to improve STEM education

“Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of discovery and innovation,” said Obama. “I applaud Change the Equation for lending their resources, expertise, and enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America’s leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

“‘I can’t do math’ has become an iconic excuse in our society,” said Linda Rosen, chief executive officer of CTEq, in a statement. “Many Americans have expressed it, but I don’t believe it’s an accurate reflection of who we are, or, more importantly, what we can do.”

Rosen said CTEq will establish a set of criteria that guide the organization and its member companies in defining the program’s success.

“It has been said that conscience is a person’s compass,” Rosen said. “CTEq can, and will, fuel the nation’s conscience on STEM education. We will monitor our own progress and the progress of others, identifying what is working and what isn’t. CTEq will apply lessons we learn so that the nation continues to move towards a future where every American is literate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

CTEq has set an ambitious agenda for its first year, including creating a snapshot of existing STEM investments by its 100 member companies to establish a baseline of STEM programs, and creating a state-by-state scorecard to assess the condition of STEM education in all 50 states.

The organization also will create a self-evaluation mechanism for member companies to measure the effectiveness of their STEM programs. In addition, it will launch a plan to initiate a core set of “very” effective programs in 100 new sites across the country to broaden the philanthropic reach of CTEq members.

The programs will allow more students to engage in robotics competitions, improve professional development for math and science teachers, increase the number of students that take and pass rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) math and science courses, increase the number of teachers who enter the profession with a STEM undergraduate degree, and provide new opportunities to traditionally underrepresented students and underserved communities, CTEq said.

Change the Equation was founded by former astronaut Sally Ride, former Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, and Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez, with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The nonprofit group has a membership of 100 CEOs and funding of $5 million for its first year of operation.

The new initiatives were announced on the same day the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report outlining ambitious new policy proposals for improving STEM education.

The report, titled “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future,” states that the federal government should:

• Recruit and train 100,000 outstanding STEM teachers over the next decade who are able to prepare and inspire students;

• Recognize and reward the top five percent of the nation’s STEM teachers, by creating a STEM master teachers corps;

• Create 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade;

• Use technology to drive innovation, in part by creating an advanced research projects agency—modeled on the innovative Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—for education;

• Create opportunities for inspiration through individual and group experiences outside the classroom; and

• Support the current state-led movement for shared standards in math and science.

All told, the report provides a practical roadmap for significantly improving federal coordination and leadership on STEM education, so American students today will grow into the world’s science and technology leaders of tomorrow.

“I think of this report as giving my generation a guidebook for how to step up to its ‘Greatest Generation moment,’” said Jim Gates, co-chair of the PCAST Working Group on STEM Education, who is also a professor of physics at the University of Maryland and director of the university’s Center for String and Particle Theory.

In preparing the report and its recommendations, PCAST assembled a working group of experts in curriculum development and implementation, school administration, teacher preparation and professional development, effective teaching, out-of-school activities, and education technology. The report was strengthened by additional input from STEM education experts, STEM practitioners, publishers, private companies, educators, and federal, state, and local education officials.

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