Vital Signs Highlights CAs STEM Education Challenges & Opportunities

Those of us working in STEM-related fields, no matter what our area of expertise, are concerned about California’s ability to meet the growing demand for STEM jobs and its future implications for our state’s economy.

We’re concerned about our state’s current state of STEM education and the critical need for swift and dramatic improvements.

We’re concerned about catalyzing the resources and public will needed to meet our STEM challenges.
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As STEM education advocates, we know the importance of data and analysis in convincing and mobilizing others to join our efforts.

We now have vital new data with the recent release of Vital Signs, an in-depth state-by-state analysis of STEM education published by Change the Equation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community support for STEM learning.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the Vital Signs for California offers mixed news. While our state’s 8th Grade Math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam improved six points from 267 in 2003 to 273 in 2011, our students are still 26 points below the NAEP’s cut off for “proficient” of 299.

In Science, California students came short of the “Basic” level determined by the NAEP.

These sub-par scores aren’t surprising, given that the number of hours dedicated to Science learning in California elementary schools has actually fallen from a nation-leading three hours a week in 1994, to a below-average 1.8 hours per week in 2008.

Fortunately, Vital Signs does not just offer more gloom and doom.

It also shines the light on the assets that California can leverage to address the STEM education challenge, including a relatively well-educated STEM teaching force, a steadily growing and recession-proof demand for STEM workers, and a growing shift in policy to prioritize STEM education, as evidenced by the state’s adoption of Common Core Standards for Mathematics and its leadership in the development of Next Generation Science Standards. Taken together, these new standards provide the framework to drive high quality STEM teaching and learning for all students in California.

In addition to laying out the challenges and opportunities for California STEM education, Vital Signs for California also provides concrete recommendations about what our state needs to do to improve STEM education.

Being clear about our challenges, understanding our strengths, and celebrating our successes are key to improving STEM education.

And at CSLNet’s upcoming California STEM Summit – Oct 15 and 16 in San Diego – that’s exactly what we’ll be doing: bringing together business leaders, educators, policymakers, and students to advance STEM learning across California.

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Follow us on Twitter: @CaSTEMLearning

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Get STEM Summit updates:

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About Chris Roe

Christopher Roe is the CEO of the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet), a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the state’s capacity to provide high-quality learning opportunities for all of its students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the critical fields that fuel California’s dynamic economy. Roe is in charge of overseeing the creation of strategic relationships and collaborating with regional, state and national partners to establish a network that will rapidly scale innovative STEM teaching and learning across K-14 education. Prior to joining CSLNet, Roe served as the Deputy Director for the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF).

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