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Tech, education leaders talk STEM challenges

Jun 12, 2013 by

Education and tech leaders on Wednesday lauded the Obama administration’s efforts on opening the science, technology, engineering and math fields to more students — but said the resource challenges in under-funded schools remain a major hurdle.

Tom Kalil, the White House’s deputy director for technology and innovation, said the Obama administration’s efforts include preparing and recruiting 100,000 new STEM teachers and opening opportunities to get more younger students interested in STEM.

Asked about whether Congress needs to takes steps to boost STEM education, Kalil said “they are hearing not just the administration, but they’re also hearing from the private sector.”

“We have open jobs. We could be hiring more people if we had workers” coming from the schools, he said at POLITICO Pro’s Tech Deep Dive: STEM Policy’s Next Steps event.

The tech community and teachers need to get more students to appreciate the STEM field and what it can do for them after they graduate, said Nina Rees, president and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

As long as there’s a choice to go to business school or Wall Street, “you’re always going to have a mismatch,” Rees said. “The challenge we’re facing now is that of the 30 fastest growing jobs of the future are all going to be in STEM.”

That renewed focus must also come with a cultural shift in classrooms, including a longer school day, coupled with involvement from tech communities, said Eric Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of Citizen Schools.

“In six hours, it’s tough to have experiments and fields trips … and math and reading,” he said. “We need to issue a call to those five to 10 million STEM professionals to come in and co-teach with teachers.”

Rees said testing can help educators evaluate students’ progress and offer a baseline that can then be improved by STEM resources.

“I would also argue that with math you either know the answer to that question or your don’t,” she said. “As much as testing is maligned these days, I think we’re kind of simplifying the solution to the problem by blaming the test.”

Education reformers can also address teacher accountability by making sure state education agencies offer a path for tech professionals to teach, the panel agreed.

“We have folks who have been trained in math and science careers and are looking at education as a second career,” said Becky Pringle, secretary-treasurer of the National Education Association.

STEM advocates must also focus on improving performance at the undergraduate level, where only 40 percent of students who intend to get a STEM degree actually graduate with one, Kalil said.

“At the end of the day, if we’re going to get where were want to go as a country … it is going to take many more successes for young people in elementary school, middle school and high school. That can happen in our schools,” Schwarz said.

via Tech, education leaders talk STEM challenges – Bobby Cervantes –

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