STEM News and Opinion
Should Math and Science Teachers Get Special Training? Some ideas the author hopes school systems take seriously:
"Higher education partnerships. Nearby colleges might provide subject area updates to keep K-12 teachers of math and science on the STEM cutting edge."
"Engineering experiences for teachers. These might be summer programs that allow middle-school teachers from STEM fields to work with engineers and scientists. Are there industries in your area that might provide those opportunities?" (Anne Jolly, KQED)
A Reboot in Recruiting Women Into Computer Science "Now in her sophomore year at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Ms. Lamm is among an increasingly rare breed—women majoring in computer science. Nationwide, women earned only 18 percent of the bachelor's degrees awarded in computer science in 2010, according to the National Science Foundation. That's less than half the proportion in 1985, when 37 percent of those degrees went to women." Despite efforts by major STEM players like Microsoft, College Board and the National Science Foundation, female participation in the computer sciences has leveled off. Stakeholders have not given up, though. Classes that highlight computer science's role in addressing social ills are springing up on college campuses, while a new advanced placement course that approaches the science theoretically--with limited coding--is in the works. (Ben Gose, The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Why My Colleagues In Congress Shouldn’t Wait On Immigration Reform Senator Jerry Moran (R--Kan.) writes in TechCrunch about an immigration bill that rewards non-citizen students and entrepreneurs for acquiring advanced STEM degrees or creating new technology start ups that hire a minimum of two Americans. "Startup Act 2.0 provides new opportunities for highly educated and entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in the United States where their talent can fuel economic growth and create jobs. By making new visas available for foreign students who graduate with an advanced degree in a STEM field from an American university ... Startup Act 2.0 also creates an Entrepreneur’s Visa, something other countries have already created and immigration experts say is key to attracting foreign talent. This new visa would allow foreign-born entrepreneurs already legally in the United States to stay here if they are able to raise $100,000 in capital to start a business and hire at least two American workers." A similar immigration bill backed by Republicans, The STEM Jobs Act, did not garner enough House votes to move to the Senate. That bill was stalled in late September after Democrats argued the proposed law unnecessarily winds down a green card lottery that brings in 55,000 foreigners annually.
STEM Pathways "The University of Maryland Baltimore County announced today that it will spend three years building and piloting a national model for increasing the number of community college students who ultimately earn bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. The program is funded by a $2.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The City Colleges of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago recently announced a partnership, along with a $100,000 grant from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities' Minority Male STEM Initiative, which is funded by the Kresge Foundation, to support male minority STEM students at the community college system in transferring to and graduating from Illinois-Chicago. Additionally, earlier this year, Mount Holyoke College received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to recruit and support female community college students in STEM fields.
Each program is different, but they all share a common purpose: giving community college students." (Alexandra Tilsley, Inside Higher Ed)
Mexico is now a top producer of engineers, but where are jobs? Last year the country to the south produced 76,000 undergraduates in engineering, rivaling the U.S. and its 83,000 as the western hemisphere's top nation in graduating engineers. In the past decade Mexico doubled the number of two- and four-year universities; 120 out of the 140 new institutions built have a STEM focus. Still, "the country lags far behind its competitors — including South Korea and Chile — in basic measures of innovation, such as the number of patents filed, scientific papers published and investments made in research and development. Public and private spending on research and development in Mexico, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is at the very bottom among industrial nations." (William Booth, The Washington Post)
Goals That Blind Us to the Bigger Picture Charles Lane argues politicians rely on measurable goals to earn public opinion points, sometimes to the detriment of public policy. While commending the president for his hard push to increase the number of STEM teachers, Lane wonders whether the metrics that quantify government output are too static. He points to President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush who together sought to add 13.5 million new homeowners, arguing "[b]oth men treated homeownership rates as a proxy for non-quantifiable social goods: economic opportunity, community stability, minority inclusion. They were less interested in how many new mortgages might ultimately foreclose." While not necessarily opposing the president's pivot toward more STEM teachers, Lane advocates for a new tack in gauging a federal program's contribution to society. After all, he says "Governmental inputs — dollars spent, teachers trained — are easy to quantify. So politicians promise more of them and claim success if they hit their targets." (Charles Lane, The Washington Post)
What's New in the Edu-Tech World?
The founder of Princeton Review and online startups 2U and Noodle E...-- John Katzman--believes new education technology companies should ditch the lean mantra of the trade and go for bulk: "Given the unforgiving and 'heavy trust' nature of education, Katzman said, startups are better off assembling a good mix of people with deep backgrounds in education and business than following the typical model of 'one guy with a vision and a bunch of [hard-working] twenty-somethings.' The latter model can result in a lot of wasted time and money but the former, he said, can produce a company with 'both a soul and a clue.'" (Ki Mae Heussner, GigaOM)
"Ed-tech startups rarely, if ever, talk with educators about designing their product. You’d be surprised at the number of emails I get asking me to comment on a product after it has been conceptualized, built, and tested. I have dubbed these messages “tell us how cool our product is” emails.
Startups in other fields don’t behave this way. Imagine a genomics startup that didn’t talk to medical researchers and/or didn’t base their products on research in the biotech field. Such a company would never exist, let alone be funded by a venture capital firm. ...Lastly, there is the issue of adoption of new technologies by educational institutions. Higher education faculty and administrators are already distrustful of startups because there is inherent skepticism about for-profit ventures. Ed-Tech companies have no data showing that their product does what they say it does." (Reynol Junco, Harvard professor, writing in Venture Beat)
But a pair of business professors are working on an antidote to the swill of untested new start-ups: "The proposal is called EDU STAR, a nonprofit organization that would provide the technology and reporting resources for schools looking to quickly and cheaply test education technology products. It is the brainchild of Aaron Chatterji, a professor from Duke University, and Benjamin Jones, a professor from Northwestern University, who laid out the plans in a discussion paper that was presented Thursday at an event in Washington sponsored by The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative of the Brookings Institution." (Jason Tomassini, Education Week)
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