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STEM Solutions 2012 Brings Leaders Together in Dallas
“U.S. News STEM Solutions 2012 – A Leadership Summit” was held in Dallas during the last week in June to discuss issues in STEM education in the United States. The conference’s website states that one of their goals was to “bring together business, education and government leader who have long recognized the need to connect the dots between STEM education and careers.”
Test scores and global rankings of US STEM students are in serious decline. Tom Luce, current chairman of the National Math and Science Initiative, said that, “It’s really clear that it’s a national problem. We’re falling behind the rest of the world in math and science. Every test shows it. That catches up with you. ” John Ellis Price, President of the University of North Texas at Dallas, stated that, “In the areas of math and science, I believe the U.S. ranks somewhere around 31st and 23rd respectively, when we used to be No.1 in both areas.” Much of the conversation revolved around the issues in STEM education but the other side of the conversation was focused on finding solutions to these problems.
Steve Zipkes, founding principle of Manor New Technology High School, talked about solutions for STEM education when he said, “It’s really about a pedagogical shift and how we actually teach students now. We need to come up with real world problems, authentic projects, hands on activities, where students not only learn the content.” He goes on to say that when he talks to business partners they tell him that they need “individuals that know how to collaborate, how to problem solve with critical thinking, that have a strong work ethic, that know how to communicate both written and orally. These are skills that we have not taught. When you talk about STEM education, you are talking about incorporating those 21st century skills in content that is integrated.”
Steve Smith, interim vice president of instruction at El Paso Community College, suggest early intervention as a solution when he says, “It’s important to catch students well before they get to college to bring them into the STEM fold. We’re reaching down into the eighth grade to pull students into our STEM program at our early college high school. We may need to go even earlier than that, but that seems to be a good point right now to get those students interested in STEM fields.”
Discussions included the need for more technology in the classroom to keep students engaged and to shift the fundamentals of teaching. Engaging kids in STEM topics at an earlier age may reduce the number of students who switch out of STEM disciplines and increase the number of incoming. In addition, educators hope to make clearer connections between a quality STEM education and a quality STEM career.