Six years ago, I founded 100Kin10, a national network focused on training and retaining excellent K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers. Originally inspired by Barack Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address, we knew that we were preparing to take on a huge and daunting problem; for years, our education system has faced an acute teacher shortage. There simply aren’t enough qualified educators to meet the needs of our students, especially in STEM.
Every year we punt on this problem, we not only do a disservice to our children, we also damage our country’s economic future, which relies heavily on STEM professionals. To tackle the world’s future problems—from food security to climate change—we will need future generations of STEM professionals with creativity and technical know-how. And that must start with ensuring that every child receives an excellent STEM education.
100,000 teachers by 2021
To address the shortage of qualified STEM teachers, we set an ambitious goal of adding 100,000 excellent STEM teachers to America’s K-12 classrooms by 2021. In order to reach that goal, we enlisted hundreds of leading organizations across sectors, including academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies. Each of these organizations made a commitment to help achieve our common goal, and, as the hub of this network, we support their efforts and amplify their impact—helping our partners convene, collaborate, and learn from each other.
And it’s working: We recently announced that the 100Kin10 network has successfully trained and retained more than 54,000 STEM new teachers and is on track to prepare 100,000 excellent STEM teachers on time, by 2021. It’s an exciting milestone. Not only are we past the halfway mark toward our goal, but we have met or exceeded our annual benchmarks every year since our inception.
But we have also learned that what is far more challenging, and equally necessary, is to address the factors that got us here in the first place. Despite the amazing work of our partners, the underlying, systemic questions remain: What is preventing young people from pursuing careers as STEM teachers? Why do so many veteran STEM teachers choose to leave the classroom? What is driving the persistent shortage of qualified STEM teachers in this country?
We knew we had to get to the heart of this problem. We had to understand all the components before we could determine how best to attract people to the profession and retain them.