STEM Education News
August 6, 2012
In This Issue:
- STEM Leaders Convening to Address U.S. STEM Education System
- White House Announces New Details on STEM Master Teacher Corps
- Exploring the Science Behind the Summer Olympics
- Want to Get Teens Interested in Math and Science? Target Their Parents
- President Obama Honors Outstanding Early-Career Engineers and Scientists
- Member in the Spotlight: STEM Educators Learn New Skills During Vernier’s Free Fall Workshops
- Legislative Update: Senator Cantwell Emphasizes STEM Skills Shortage During Aviation Hearing
STEM Leaders Convening to Address U.S. STEM Education System
On October 1-2, STEM education leaders from across the nation will convene in Arlington, Virginia for a powerful discussion on building a STEM education system that is the best in the world. STEM leaders who register by August 31 to participate in this 12th Annual Conference, hosted by Triangle Coalition, will receive an early-bird discount.
A dynamic, interactive series of presentations will examine the current climate in STEM education, consider internationally renowned solutions, and explore pathways to defining and achieving “A World-Class STEM Education System in America.” Experts will provide insight on today’s most pressing issues, including the recruitment and development of STEM teachers; movements to reform math and science curriculum; and the effective measurement of student achievement in STEM subjects.
Keynote presenter Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy and author of Surpassing Shanghai: An Agenda for American Education Built on the World’s Leading Systems, will discuss transforming the U.S. education system to meet the demands of today’s workforce and global economy.
In addition, participants will have a wealth of opportunities to share, relate, and network with one another; engage with a roundtable of state STEM leaders; and preview cutting-edge technologies and innovations impacting today’s STEM classrooms. To conclude the conference, participants will have opportunities to meet with members of Congress to reinforce the importance of STEM education as a national priority.
To learn more about the conference and to take advantage of the early-bird registration discount, visit www.trianglecoalition.org/conference.
White House Announces New Details on STEM Master Teacher Corps
The Administration has officially announced its plans for the creation of the STEM Master Teacher Corps that was proposed by President Obama last February. Senior officials, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz, OSTP Director Dr. John Holdren, and PCAST Co-Chair Dr. Eric Lander met with a group of K-12 math and science teachers on July 18 at the White House to discuss the details of the plan.
The STEM Master Teacher Corps will start by selecting 2,500 accomplished STEM educators to serve at 50 different sites throughout the country. Over the next four years, the corps will expand to 10,000 teachers who will commit to serve for multiple years to improve STEM teaching in both their schools and their communities.
Teachers will be selected through a highly competitive process, based on demonstrated effectiveness in teaching one or more STEM subjects, content knowledge, and contributions to teaching and learning. A set of national benchmarks will guide this rigorous selection process which will be administered at the local or regional level.
In an effort to raise the prestige of the teaching profession and attract and retain the best talent in our nation’s STEM classrooms, corps members will be compensated in such a way that is more competitive with alternative professions. Corps members will receive an additional $20,000 annual stipend in exchange for their service, leadership, and commitment.
Corps members will take on leadership and mentorship roles, leading teacher professional development activities, evaluating and providing feedback to other teachers, and disseminating effective practices to improve STEM instruction. They will also have opportunities to improve their own instructional leadership and pedagogical content skills, and to deepen their subject matter expertise.
According to the White House announcement, the STEM Master Teacher Corps would be supported by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the RESPECT project, and established in collaboration with local public-private partnerships between STEM-related non-profits, businesses, and school districts.
The current proposal is contingent upon Congress’s approval of the $1 billion price tag, which was included in President Obama’s FY2013 budget request. Effective immediately, the Administration has allocated $100 million from the existing Teachers Incentive Fund to help school districts establish career pathways and development plans for excellent STEM teachers. In this program, these highly effective teachers will model STEM instruction for their peers and take on additional leadership responsibilities in their school districts.
President Obama emphasized that supporting teachers is an investment in the economy and the future workforce. “If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow,” the President said, “we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.”
The proposal for the STEM Master Teacher Corps builds on recommendations from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Prepare and Inspire report to recognize STEM educators, retain talented individuals by incentivizing STEM teaching, and encourage teacher cooperation to improve STEM education across the country.
Exploring the Science Behind the Summer Olympics
“Science of the Summer Olympics,” the fourth and latest installment in the “Science of Sports” franchise, explores the science, engineering and technology that are helping athletes maximize their performance at the 2012 London Games.
How does swimmer Missy Franklin use the principles of fluid dynamics to move more quickly through water? What are the unique biomechanics that have helped make sprinter Usain Bolt the world’s fastest human? What does weightlifter Sarah Robles have in common with a high-tech robot? How do engineers build faster pools, stronger safety helmets, and specialized wheelchairs for disabled athletes? Explore these and many other engineering and technology concepts in this free 10-part educational video series.
“Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering in Sports” is a partnership with NBC Learn, NBC Sports and the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Engineering. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will provide free lesson plans for each video later this month. Watch the videos for free at Science360.
Want to Get Teens Interested in Math and Science? Target Their Parents
Increasing the number of students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math – otherwise known as the STEM disciplines – is considered to be vital to national competitiveness in the global economy and to the development of a strong 21st century workforce. But the pipeline leading toward STEM careers begins leaking in high school, when students choose not to take advanced courses in science and math.
Experts in research and policy have examined different ways to enhance and promote STEM education, but most of these efforts are focused within the four walls of the classroom. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, goes beyond the classroom to examine the unique role that parents can play in promoting students’ STEM motivation.
“Our focus for this project was different from our previous work,” says lead author Judith Harackiewicz, of the University of Wisconsin. “In classes, we try to promote students’ motivation and performance in that class, but with families, our goal is to promote choices about which courses to take.”
Because many math and science classes are not required, especially in the last two years of high school, student enrollment may be a more fundamentally important issue than student motivation.
Harackiewicz and her colleagues Christopher Rozek and Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin, and Chris Hulleman of James Madison University, hypothesized that parents could play an instrumental role in helping to boost STEM enrollment.
The researchers decided to test this hypothesis with an intervention that involved 181 U.S. high school students and their parents who were part of the longitudinal Wisconsin Study of Families and Work. The intervention spanned the students’ 10th, 11th, and 12th grade years of high school. This longitudinal project was funded by the National Science Foundation.
In October of 10th grade, the researchers mailed some parents a glossy brochure that provided information about the importance of math and science in daily life and for various careers. In January of 11th grade, they mailed the same parents another brochure that emphasized the same overall themes and included information for a dedicated website called “Choices Ahead.” The website featured links to resources about STEM fields and careers and included interviews with college students about the importance of the math and science courses they took in high school. In spring of 11th grade, they asked the parents to complete an online questionnaire to evaluate the Choices Ahead website, which helped to ensure that the parents visited the site.
Parents in the control group did not receive any of these materials. In the summer following 12th grade, all families – adolescents and parents – completed a final questionnaire about their interactions with the brochures and the website and their perceived utility of math and science courses. Information about the STEM classes that the students took was obtained through self-report and high school transcripts.
The results suggest that the intervention had a noticeable effect on the courses that the students enrolled in: students whose parents received all the materials as part of the experimental group took more science and math classes in the last two years of high school. The effect amounted to roughly an extra semester of advanced math or science, including courses such as algebra II, trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, statistics, chemistry, and physics.
Mothers in the intervention group viewed math and science courses as more useful than did mothers in the control group. And students with parents in the intervention group had more conversations with their parents about course choices, educational plans, and the importance of math and science during 12th grade. These two factors – having a mother who values STEM and having more conversations about STEM – seemed to enhance students’ own perceptions of the usefulness of STEM courses.
The researchers were surprised by just how effective their modest intervention was. “It’s well known that children of more educated parents take more math and science courses in high school. The effect of our intervention was just as strong as the parent education effect,” explains Harackiewicz.
These findings provide evidence that interventions with parents could be a useful tool for boosting enrollment in STEM courses and could help to close gaps in student enrollment that result from differences in parental education.
“Although some people question whether parents wield any influence, we think of parents as an untapped resource,” says Harackiewicz. “This study shows that it is possible to help parents help their teens make academic choices that will prepare them for the future.”
President Obama Honors Outstanding Early-Career Engineers and Scientists
Last Tuesday, President Obama honored 96 researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
“Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people.” President Obama said. “The impressive accomplishments of today’s awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead.”
President Obama met with the awardees at the White House where he thanked them for their research and encouraged them to keep up the good work. The 96 researchers also took part in a series of White House briefings with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) staff and were honored by OSTP Director John Holdren at an award ceremony at the Smithsonian.
Each scientist or engineer is employed or funded by a Federal department and agency, which annually nominate the individuals whose research shows promise for strengthening American leadership in science and engineering.
The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by OSTP. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.
See the full list of PECASE awardees in the White House announcement.
Member in the Spotlight
STEM Educators Learn New Skills During Vernier’s Free Fall Workshops
To help educators learn about the various ways to integrate data-collection technology into their laboratory experiments, Triangle Coalition member Vernier Software & Technology is offering free workshops this fall. Led by experienced Vernier trainers, each 4-hour, hands-on workshop provides seasoned educators the opportunity to hone their data-collection skills while teachers new to probeware learn and explore the basics. Each workshop will be conducted using Vernier’s award-winning LabQuest 2 technology.
During the workshops, participants will learn important skills and strategies for integrating data-collection technology into their chemistry, biology, physics, middle school science, physical science or Earth science instruction. Participants also have the option of earning two (quarter) graduate science credit hours through the Portland State University Center for Science Education.
“Vernier’s workshops provide educators with a free and valuable professional development opportunity to learn new data-collection skills and techniques that they can bring back to the classroom,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and former physics teacher. “By incorporating data collection into their labs, educators provide students with engaging learning and scientific discovery opportunities.”
For complete details and to register for a Vernier workshop near you, visit www.vernier.com/workshop.
Vernier Software & Technology has been a leading innovator of scientific data-collection technology for 31 years. Focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), Vernier is dedicated to developing creative ways to teach and learn using hands-on science. Vernier creates easy-to-use and affordable science interfaces, sensors, and graphing/analysis software. With world-wide distribution to over 130 countries, Vernier products are used by educators and students from elementary school to college. Vernier’s technology-based solutions enhance STEM education, increase learning, and build students’ critical thinking skills. Vernier’s business culture is grounded in Earth-friendly policies and practices, and the company provides a family-friendly workplace. For more information, visit www.vernier.com.
Senator Cantwell Emphasizes STEM Skills Shortage During Aviation Hearing
During a recent Senate Aviation Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) emphasized the need to encourage more American students to pursue aviation careers in order to meet workforce needs and maintain the global leadership of the U.S. aviation industry.
According to Boeing, 21,000 new aerospace workers will be needed in Washington state alone over the next decade, but not nearly enough American students are studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines to learn the skills needed for these careers. The National Science Board reports that 33 percent of all STEM doctoral students in U.S. universities are foreign students on temporary visas, and 57 percent of U.S. post-doctoral fellows in STEM fields hold temporary visas.
“We’re graduating about 70,000 engineers a year, but only 44,000 of those are eligible for aerospace careers due to security issues,” Cantwell said during the July 18 hearing. “So how do we get more STEM educated engineers in aerospace?”
“Clearly we need more capacity and more research going on at the graduate level and at the bachelor’s degree level,” responded Dr. John Tracy, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Engineering, Operations and Technology, The Boeing Company. “But the problem really starts at the elementary school level, where even in terms of just the public image that scientists and engineers have through the popular media affects young people’s choices. … But there are programs out there and our industry is working as a whole to try and change this. There are programs like First Robotics where we get junior high and high school kids into robotics competitions that have the feel of a high school football game that gets their interest going.”
Dr. Tracy continued, “We’re investing alone $25 million dollars a year in the external community trying to get these young people excited. So I do have hope, but it does require a systems solution where all of us are working as individuals talking to young people next door, from historically underrepresented communities in aerospace to the top-level public policy decisions and programs. It takes all of those working together.”
As Chair of the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, Cantwell has repeatedly called for Congress to increase support for apprenticeship programs, STEM education, industry-academic partnerships, and aerospace skills training programs to produce a 21st century-skilled aerospace workforce. More details about the July 18 hearing are available here.