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Sample Op-Eds on STEM Education

Sample Op-Eds on STEM Education

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Published by: icwanna on Mar 29, 2011
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SAMPLEOP‐EDINSUPPORTOFRAISINGSTEMSTANDARDS
FewpeoplewouldarguethattheUnitedStatesisn’tslippingbehindtherestofthenationeducationally.Thisisparticularlytroublingforuswhenitcomestomathandscience,asothernationslikeChina,Korea,andIndiaarequicklytakingourmantleofbeingtheworld’stechnologicalinnovators–whichwaskeytodrivingoureconomicdominanceinthe20
th
century.Thenumbersarefairlyplaintoanyonewhoreadsthem.TheNationalAssessmentofEducationalProgress(NAEP)—thenation’seducationreportcard—showsthatlessthan40%ofstudentsateverygradeleveltestedareproficientinmathandscience.Onthemostrecent2009NAEPexam,lessthan40%offourth‐graderswereproficientinmath,decliningtojust34%foreighth‐graders.Themathresultsareevenworsefortwelfth‐graders,whereonly26%scoredatoraboveproficient,apaltry3%gainfromthefirstadministrationofthe12
th
gradetestin2005.
Onthescienceexam,lastadministeredin2005,only29%offourth‐gradersscoredattheproficientlevel,withidenticalresultsforeighth‐graders.Onthe12
th
gradescienceNAEPexam,just18%ofstudentswereproficient—adeclinefrom1996.Internationally,the
ProgrammeforInternationalStudentAchievement(PISA)
,aninternationaleducationbenchmarklastconductedin2009bytheOrganisationforEconomicCo‐operationandDevelopment(OECD),findstheUnitedStatesbarelyaverageinreadingandscienceandbelowaverageinmath.Ournationranked25
th
outof34nationsinmath.SomeliketodismissthisharshrealitybypointingoutthatothercountrieshavemorehomogenouspopulationsandthereforefewersocioeconomicproblemsthantheUnitedStates.However,accordingtoOECD,theUnitedStateswouldactuallyendupwithlowerrankingsonPISA’sreadingassessmentifall34developedcountrieshadthesameaveragesocioeconomicstatus.Simplyput,wecannotexplainourwayoutofthisdilemma—wemusttakeaction.Oneofthecommonsolutionsbandiedaboutistoencouragestudentstosimplytakemoremathandsciencecourses.AlgebraIIwasquicklydeterminedtobeapanacea,withanincreasingnumberofstudentsbeingusheredintothoseclasses.Assuch,between1990and2005,theaveragenumberofmathcreditscompletedbyahighschoolgraduaterosefrom3.2to3.8,withmorethanhalfofallstudentsenrollinginalgebraII(comparedtounderone‐thirdin1978).Unfortunately,theproblemoflowstudentachievementisn’tsoeasilysolved.TheaveragemathGPAonlyrosefrom2.2to2.6overthistimeframe,evenasmorestudentstookhigherlevelmath.StudentsenrolledinalgebraI,geometry,andalgebraIIin1978scoredhigherthantheir2008counterpartsenrolledinthesameclasses.Itstandstoreasonthenthatwemustnotonlylookatthequantityofeducationbeingprovidedbutthequalityandrigor.Itisevidentthatwehavetoolongbeencontentwithprovidingtheillusionofacademicrigor,insteadofdoingthedifficultworkofraisingthestandards–thefoundationofastate’seducationcurriculum.Mathandsciencestandards,inparticular,havebeeninneedofimprovementforquitesometime.TheCommonCoreStateStandardsInitiativeisavoluntarymovementbymostofthestatestoprovideaclear,concise,andrigoroussetofstandardsthatarecommonacrossthenation.Recognizingthattheknowledgerequiredforstudentstosucceeddoesnotchangewhenonecrossesstatelines,Common
 
Corepromisestoensurethatallchildrenreceivetheeducationtheydeserve.Evenifourstatedoesnotfollowthemovement,wemustensurethatourstandardsatleastmeetorexceedtheoneslaidoutbyCommonCore.Further,updatingourstandardsallowsusthechancetobeinnovativeinourapproachtoeducation.Strong,yetclearandconcisestandardsgiveteacherstheflexibilitytomeettheneedsofeachstudentandtheopportunitytobecreativeintheircurricula.Well‐designedstandardscan—andshould—placeteachingbackinthehandsofeducators.Criticsarguethatstandardsdon’tteachchildrenandalonewon’tchangetheeducationsystem.However,standardsarethecornerstoneuponwhicheverythingelseintheeducationsystemlies.Examinationsareonlyasgoodasthestandardsuponwhichthey’rewritten.Ateacher’scurriculumandprofessionaldevelopmentprogramsaredesignedaftertheexaminationsareformed.Manyotherchangesalsofollowarevisionofthestandardsiftheyaretobesuccessful.Wecan’taffordtonibbleattheedgesofimprovementanylonger.Thejobsofthefutureineveryindustrywillincreasinglydemandthatworkerspossessstrongcriticalthinkingandproblem‐solvingskills.ThesearetheveryskillsthatareincubatedinSTEMeducation.Wemustdedicateourselvestodowhatisnecessarytoraisestudentachievementlevels.
Questions?Contact:
DomenicGiandomenicoDirector,EducationandWorkforceProgramsInstituteforaCompetitiveWorkforcePhone:202‐463‐5764Email:domenic@uschamber.com
 
SAMPLEOP‐EDFORGENERALSUPPORTOFSTEMREFORM
Howdoyouprepareyoungpeopleforjobsthatwehaven’tevencreatedyet?It’saquestionthathaslikelybeenaskedsincethedawnofpubliceducation,andtraditionally,theanswerhasbeensimplytocreatestudentswhoareaswell‐roundedaspossible.Whilethisisstillaworthyideal,wehaveinformationatourdisposaltodaytohelpnarrowthefocusquiteabit.Accordingtothereport
HelpWanted:AProjectionofJobsandEducationRequirementsThrough2018
bytheGeorgetownCenteronEducationandtheWorkforce,weknowthatapproximatelytwo‐thirdsofalljobopeningswillrequiresomekindofeducation(e.g.certificateprogram,associate’sdegree,bachelor’sdegree,andbeyond)afterhighschoolwithinsevenyears.Thesamereportconcludesthatnearly15%ofalljobopeningswillbedirectlyinscience,technology,engineering,andmathrelatedfields(includinghealth‐care)andmanymoreoccupationswillhavestrongscienceandmathcomponentstothemwithinthemanufacturingandinformationtechnologyindustries.Beyondtheseprojections,wecanlooktoournation’spastandclearlyseewheretheareasofgrowthwillbe.Americaninnovationshavebeenshapingthefutureanditsworkforceformorethanacentury.EliWhitney’scottonginforeverchangedthefaceofagriculture.HenryFord’sModelTinstantlybirthedanentireindustryandstillshapesthefortunesofentirecitiesandstates.WithoutH.EdwardRoberts’creationofthepersonalcomputerhassetusonanewfrontierthatisstillbeingexploredmorethan35yearslater.Ineachofthesecases—alongwithcountlessothers—ithasbeenthebrillianceandingenuityofAmericansthathastrulydrivenournationtowardsprosperity.Itisinthiswaythatwecanforgeeconomicprosperityforourselvesandforfuturegenerations.Innovationssuchasthese,however,donotsimplyspringfromtheground.Theyareraised,cultivated,andnurturedinourchildrenthroughourschoolsandclassrooms.Particularlyinthismodernera,tomorrow’sinnovationswillalmostcertainlybebuiltuponafoundationofastrongscience,technology,engineering,andmatheducationsystem.Certainly,noteveryonecanbethenextMarkZuckerberg,andnotallofusaregoingtobeengineersorbiochemists.Sometakethistruismtomeanthatnoteveryoneneedsascienceandmatheducation.Thisisadangerousmisconception.Whilestudentsdon’tnecessarilyneedtolearncalculustopursuetheircareergoals,jobsthatdonotrequirethesortofreasoningandlogicskillsthatareacquiredthroughstudyingmatharenearingextinction.Similarly,thoughnoteverychildisdreamingofbeingachemist,mosteveryonecanbenefitfromthecriticalthinkingandproblemsolvingthataccompaniesthelearningofthescientificmethod.Theseareskillsthatareincreasinglyindemand,especiallywithmanufacturingandtechnicianjobsbecomingmoreandmorehigh‐tech.Thedaysofassemblylinejobsarequicklygivingwaytothoserequiringtheabilitytodiagnoseproblemswithcomplexmachineryandcomputers.ThebusinesscommunityhasbeenmakingSTEMeducationapriority.Businessleadersfrequentlyserveasguestspeakers,astutorsorasmentorsforstudents,asadvisorstoprincipalsandadministrators,andasprofessionaldevelopersforteachers.EntrepreneurslikeDeanKaman,inventoroftheSegway,supportcompetitionslikeFIRSTRobotics,whichprovideshighschoolstudentswithopportunitiestocreatearobotthatcanoperateautonomouslyundervaryingcircumstances.

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