Involving More Female and Minority Students in STEM Imperative According to Experts

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Experts in STEM education initiatives stressed the need to build interest in science, technology, engineering and math fields among both female and minority student groups, according to discussion on a recent Google Hangout hosted by AdvancED.

Experts in STEM education initiatives stressed the need to build interest in science, technology, engineering and math fields among both female and minority student groups.

Steven Anderson, director of instructional technology with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in N.C.; Julie Kantor, chief partnership officer with STEMconnector; and Erik Robelen, editor of Education Week, discussed the opportunities and challenges of STEM initiatives during a Google® Hangout hosted by AdvancED®, the world’s leader in providing improvement and accreditation services to education providers of all types. The forum was moderated by AdvancED President and CEO Mark A. Elgart, Ed.D.

According to Kantor, statistics support the need for increased attention on STEM initiatives. “Seventy-one percent of jobs are going to require STEM skills,” she said.

To attract more female and minority students, Kantor shared, will require providing role models who have “awesome, dynamic, fulfilling, well-paying STEM careers” along with mentoring and sponsorship. Sponsorship, she explained, includes making connections to internships, apprenticeships as well as introductions to individuals in STEM fields. She went on to share that girls often feel isolated or pushed out in STEM classes and that presents an obstacle for engaging more of them.

Robelen shared what he is hearing from researchers and even some educators that schools must engage students at a young age in STEM programs. “Schools must tap into those interests of girls and minorities at an early age,” he said. Anderson concurred, “We need to get away from this idea that STEM is elite. It shouldn’t matter where the school is, we should turn any school into a STEM school.”

Elgart then asked the panelists, “We hear STEM or STEAM, college and career ready, and Common Core. How do all of these co-exist in the landscape of national education?”

“In Winston-Salem,” said Anderson, “what gets to the heart of the matter is how we are teaching kids. We can use all of these initiatives to have a great impact on kids across all grade levels.” He continued with his belief that schools must focus on not only what kids are learning but how kids are learning.

Robelen agreed that schools have different pressures that have come to bear. “To the extent that policymakers and others can be thoughtful and careful about designing programs and policies that connect opportunities - that may help.”

The panelists also discussed whether standards are needed to define STEM programs. Elgart asked, “How do we bring commonality of understanding to what those terms mean.”

North Carolina is creating a STEM recognition program according to Robelen. The key pillars they have defined are an integrated curriculum, community and industry engagement, and connections to postsecondary education. He agreed there is a need “to recognize STEM so that it brings more consistency and common understanding.”

Anderson concurred, “We have to do a better job of what it means to be STEM.”

When asked by Elgart what must be accomplish or brought into STEM education in the next five to 10 years to advance STEM for our kids, Kantor suggested that schools will have more flipped classrooms and more project-based learning, changing the role of teachers. She also shared her belief that a greater number of minorities and women will be part of the STEM workforce.

Anderson said that he believes “STEM will be a part of everything we do in the classroom because STEM is at the heart of authentic-based learning.”

In his concluding remarks, Elgart reiterated the importance of ensuring teachers are prepared to deliver the STEM curriculum and his belief that teaching is the most important profession in the world; “it is the profession through which all other professions must pass through.”

The complete Google Hangout can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/AdvancEDorg.

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About AdvancED

AdvancED is the world leader in providing improvement and accreditation services to education providers of all types in their pursuit of excellence in serving students. AdvancED works with over 32,000 institutions in more than 70 countries serving over 20 million students. AdvancED is the parent organization for the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI), the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI).

For more information, please visit http://www.advanc-ed.org.

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Jennifer Oliver
AdvancED
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