# Addressing the STEM Crisis

## A Beginning: Highly Qualified Teachers

“In the 21st century, scientific and technological innovations have become increasingly important as we face the benefits and challenges of both globalization and a knowledge-based economy. To succeed in this new information-based and highly technological society, students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past.” (National Science Foundation)

### The Problem

America is facing a STEM crisis. “Less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders showed proficiency in mathematics and science on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Because of inadequate preparation in math and science in the K-12 school system, many students never make it into the STEM pipeline. Even for those who do demonstrate proficiency, we see that many do not pursue STEM programs in their post-secondary education” (ACT-IAC Institute for Innovation). Experts predict that the majority of new jobs as well as the highest paying positions will all be related to STEM disciplines. Unfortunately, these same experts predict a shortage of over one million qualified individuals to fill the necessary positions to keep our technology expertise at the necessary levels to prevent our national security and way of life from seriously being at risk.

According to Dr. Qayoumi, President of San Jose State University, “A major barrier to graduating more STEM majors is the way we teach these disciplines. My own personal experience is a good example. Until sixth grade, I was not good in math. This was partly due to the poor pedagogy and some teachers who were not able to contextualize the material to make learning fun and enjoyable. Many decades later when I think of my math teacher in fourth and fifth grades, he embodied the angel of death. Going to class was unpleasant, and taking exams was a horrible experience. Consequently, my grades were mediocre at best. When I began sixth grade, we had a new teacher who made math really fun. He was successful in changing my attitude toward math. Not only did I develop a deep interest and appreciation for the subject matter, but my grades dramatically improved. Most important, that enjoyment of a STEM subject has continued throughout my life.”

### The “Why”

#### Elementary School Teachers

When elementary teachers are not appropriately trained both in what (concepts) and how (strategies) to teach science and math, students not only fail to master key ideas, but also lose any interest in the topic.

Although it is recommended that elementary teachers take at least introductory college courses in life science, earth science and physical science, nationwide just over 1/3 have taken all three. More importantly, very few elementary teachers have taken courses that prepare them to teach science (teaching strategies) to today’s iGeneration students. In terms of mathematics preparation, experts recommend five different areas – numbers and operations, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics – where elementary teachers should acquire basic level skills. However, only one in ten elementary teachers has taken courses covering all five areas and the average teacher has only studied one or two areas. And just like science, very few elementary teachers have taken courses preparing them to teach math (teaching strategies) to today’s iGeneration students.

#### Middle School Teachers

For educators teaching middle school science, only 41% have earned a college degree in either science or science education. In math, only 35% have earned a college degree in either math or math education. For those without a degree in either science or math, many have taken basic courses in the key areas but very few have taken anything beyond the initial course. For example, 61% of science teachers had taken an introductory physics course, but only 15% had taken any additional courses and only 7% had taken any type of engineering course. Only 45% had completed coursework in all four key areas recommended by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): life science, Earth science, physics, and chemistry. More importantly, only approximately 50% of middle school teachers felt well-prepared to teach in ANY of the four key areas of science.

In terms of mathematics preparation, the statistics are even more discouraging. At the middle grade level, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommends that teachers have college coursework in six areas: numbers, algebra, geometry, probability, statistics, and calculus. Only 14% of the teachers surveyed had taken courses in all six areas, while 21% had taken a course in only one area or in none of the areas.

#### High School Teachers

In high school, teachers are comfortable teaching life sciences and chemistry, but less than 20% feel prepared to teach physics and less than 10% are comfortable with engineering. This highlights serious concerns with being able to address new science standards, which include engineering concepts in grades K-12. This will require a major initiative to provide professional development in these areas. There are fewer college students pursuing education degrees in science and math, so there are real concerns that the shortage of teachers in these disciplines is only going to worsen.

Overall all, high school math teachers are better prepared to teach in the subject area, with about ¾ having taken advanced level math courses. However, though they are better prepared in the subject matter, only 10% of high school teachers have had formal teacher preparation.

### The Solution

Current educational methods are not addressing the STEM problem. Something new and drastically different needs to be implemented to ensure all new and current teachers are highly qualified to teach science and math. To address the STEM problem, we propose a unique set of courses to prepare educators to not only teach core concepts, but to excite their iGeneration students about the STEM subjects of science and math.

In conjunction with partnering universities, 21st Century Learning Solutions is creating a “Highly Qualified Certificate” for teachers. The requirements of the certificate would vary, based on the subject matter and the grade level, but all certificates would include very high quality, accredited, graduate level, and fully instructor-led online courses. Each online course in the program is extensively video-enhanced and created with significant input from state and school district curriculum specialists (stakeholders). To view the courses and various programs, tap or click here.

Reference:

Banilower, E. R., Smith, P. S., Weiss, I. R., Malzahn, K. A., Campbell, K. M., & Weis, A. M. (2013). Report of the 2012 national survey of science and mathematics education. Chapel Hill, NC: Horizon Research, Inc.