STEM News and Opinion
***Note from the staff: TSE took a two-week hiatus to celebrate the holidays. We're now back on for your regular weekly digest of STEM news and opinion.
House Poised to Pass STEM Immigration Bill:“Despite White House opposition, the House appears likely to pass a bill this week that would allow more foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools with advanced technical degrees to stay in the country.
The House failed to pass the bill, drafted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, when it was brought to the floor in September under a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote to pass. But based on the vote from that first attempt, the legislation appears to have enough support to pass the chamber this week by a majority vote.” (Juliana Gruenwald, National Journal)
STEM Act Receives Official Opposition From White House: "The Obama administration announced on Wednesday its opposition to the latest House Republican effort on immigration: a bill that would expand visas to certain holders of advanced degrees by eliminating another visa program entirely.
The STEM Jobs Act, proposed by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), is focused on the relatively uncontroversial idea that more highly-skilled immigrants should be allowed to come to, or stay in, the U.S. It would add 55,000 visas for masters and doctoral degree holders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
At the same time, though, it would eliminate all 55,000 diversity visas -- often called the green card lottery -- that go toward would-be immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S." (Elise Foley, The Huffington Post)
The Absurd STEM Act Holdup (OPINION): "In addition to ensuring that the bill won't pass, linking the STEM issue to the diversity visa issue ends up imposing an odd quantitative cap on high-skill migration. The diversity visa program simply doesn't issue very many visas. For all the reasons that 55,000 STEM visas would be good, triple that would be even better. But to get that you need to abandon the conceit that new highly skilled migrants need to somehow 1:1 offset other immigrants." (Matt Yglesias, Slate)
As STEM Act Vote Nears, Some Experts Dispute High Tech Worker Shortage:“The GOP-backed bill, which has drawn controversy because it eliminates the so-called Diversity Lottery, a program that randomly grants a green card to high school graduates from countries with low U.S. immigration rates, is set to be discussed and voted on by Friday.
Tech industry leaders hail the bill's high tech provision, which would disproportionately benefit students from Asia and Europe, as a solution to a brain drain in science, engineering, math and technology. But academics are calling into question the need for such a bill, saying there isn’t evidence to support the assertion that there is a workforce shortage in those fields.” (Soni Sangha, Fox News)
Mismatch Between Jobs and Workers Stems From 'Education Gap' Not a 'Skills Gap': “The national unemployment rate lingers around 8 percent while employers in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — struggle to find the highly skilled workers they need.
The Hechinger Report warns of a growing skills gap, but Planet Money's Adam Davidson argues the only real gap is the difference between employers' and workers' wage expectations for skilled labor.” (Gretchen Krebs, Deseret News)
US Science Could Face Fiscal Cliff Doom: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,082,370 U.S. citizens employed in the life sciences, such as biology and genetics, as well as physical and social sciences. Of these, approximately 31,000 stand to lose their jobs if sequestration takes place, according to a study conducted for the Aerospace Industries Association by Steve Fuller, director of the Center for Regional Analysis and professor of public policy at George Mason University.
These potential job losses represent approximately three percent of the total life, physical and social science jobs in the United States." (Tim Wall DIscovery News)
Report: Middle School Students Using Smartphones More Interested in STEM:“Middle school students who use mobile devices for school work are more likely to express an interest in STEM subjects, yet there's a large gap in the number of students using the devices at home and those using them in school, according to a new survey from MIT's Center for Mobile Learning at the Media Lab and the Verizon Foundation." (Joshua Bolkan, THE Journal)
Women Band Together, Make Inroads Into Tech: Despite an influx of females among Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial ranks, the computer-science field remains dominated by men. According to the National Science Foundation, women have plummeted from 28% of the graduates in computer sciences at U.S. schools in 2000 to 17% in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.
'There should be more female engineers,' says Rani Borkar, general manager for Intel's Architecture Development Group. She came to the U.S. from India in 1985 and has seen steady, if slow, progress.
The field's stunted growth, especially for women, is rooted in education. (Jon Swartz, USA TODAY)
Apprenticeships Make a Comeback in the United States: "For the past year, Mr. Aguilera has combined his studies for a two-year electrical-engineering degree with shift work, up to 25 hours a week, scheduled to accommodate his college responsibilities, at BMW's Spartanburg plant. He hopes that when he graduates, BMW will offer him a permanent position.
This so-called dual system, the main pathway for young people entering the work force directly from secondary school, is often invoked as one of the leading explanations for Germany's relatively low youth-unemployment rate and high economic productivity. As a result, it is drawing increased scrutiny from educators, business leaders, and government officials in other countries, including the United States, eager to emulate Germany's success." (Aisha Labi, The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Agenda for Research Universities (OPINION): “Not surprisingly, this teacher shortage has an immediate impact on the quality of STEM education in high school and, consequently, on the level of STEM knowledge that undergraduates have when they begin their studies at university. Universities clearly suffer from this missing knowledge; further, entire countries suffer because the graduates’ potential contribution to the national economy is not fulfilled.
Leading universities around the world, especially those that focus on science and technology, look at these trends, worry about the inadequacies of elementary and secondary education, and in many cases tend to take a reactive approach.” (Orit Hazzan, Inside Higher Ed)
What's New in the Edu-Tech World?
Microsoft Puts $250M More Into Its Ed-Tech Program, Partners In Learning; Wants to Provide 20M Teachers With “21st Century Skills”:Microsoft today added another $250 million to its Partners In Learning Project, a global professional development program it has created to equip teachers with the skills they need to teach IT and other future-looking subjects. Microsoft has been running this program since 2003 and to date has invested $750 million in the project.
It is a bit of soft diplomacy/marketing for Microsoft — education, after all, is one of Microsoft’s target verticals for its software and IT services businesses. (Ingrid Lunden, TechCrunch)
The Kit-ifying Education of Superstorm Sandy (OPINION) "Manhattan-based littleBits, which makes an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets, hosted a workshop asking “Why Did The Lights Go Out?” The goal was simple: Engage kids in play-and-prototyping to help them answer the question.
The idea was to help the kids – who had all experienced to various degrees the what of Sandy – to understand the why and the how of the events."(Helen Walters, Wired)
STEM Ed: CodeHS Wants To Teach Every American High Schooler How To Code: "[I]f the U.S. is really going to support STEM education initiatives and encourage a more tech-literate workforce, there’s a whole lot of work to be done. Today, computer science is absent in 95 percent of high schools in the U.S. Yep. Why? Because developing curriculum for these subjects requires time and expertise, and finding the qualified candidates to teach these subjects demands significant capital to lure talented programmers away from high-paying jobs in the private sector.
That’s where CodeHS comes in. Founded by Stanford students Zach Galant and Jeremy Keeshin and incubated at StartX and Imagine K12, CodeHS is an online program built for high school students (and teachers) with no previous coding experience that intends to provide an easy and fun way to learn computer science." (Rip Empson, TechCrunch)