Race to the Top Creates Focus on STEM Initiatives

With the announcement of the 10 Race to the Top Finalists comes an increased emphasis on STEM education improvement. The U.S. Department of Education classified STEM as a “competitive preference priority” on the Race to the Top application in the hopes of encouraging states to increase these types of programs.

A recent blog from Education Week, STEM Education to Get Boost From Race to Top Winners, highlights this focus on STEM by providing examples of how select states are using their grants to implement new STEM initiatives, including:

  • Ohio plans to increase the amount of STEM programs and support services to low-achieving schools, to enhance STEM-oriented early-college high school programs and to strengthen existing STEM schools and programs to eventually act as professional development sites.
  • Maryland will develop elementary STEM standards and create an elementary STEM teaching certificate. The State Department of Education also plans to establish a partnership with the Maryland Business Roundtable in support of strengthening STEM standards and instruction.
  • North Carolina plans to create a number of “exemplar high schools” each focused on a different STEM theme (e.g., biotechnology, aerospace). These schools will serve as models and residency sites providing high level STEM curriculum.

STEM is one CTE area that is in high demand for students as well as qualified teachers. A recent report from Georgetown University stated that by 2018 there will be 8 million STEM jobs available. In addition, a report from the National Association for Alternative Certification, focusing on the need for qualified STEM teachers, noted that, “Just 23% of 12th grade students scored at or above the proficient level in math on the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).”

Both of these statistics show the need for enhanced STEM initiatives. With the Race to the Top grant money, states will be able to provide additional funding for these types of programs in the hopes of addressing the current and future needs of STEM in both education and the workforce.

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