Five Steps to Better STEM Education

In an article written last week by Brian Gaines, CEO of MdBio Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides bioscience awareness, education and workforce development in Maryland, the recognition of the state's schools as the best in the nation for the fifth year in a row for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education by Education Week was not seen as an achievement, but as a concern.

Gaines questioned how Maryland could deserve a No. 1 ranking when only 32% of its eighth grade students have tested proficient in science, according to the National Assessment for Educational Progress. Additionally, only 11% of African-Americans and 18% of Hispanic eighth graders in Maryland tested proficient in science.

Roughly 6,000 STEM jobs become available each year, but only 4,000 students actually graduate with STEM related degrees, giving the state one of the largest deficits in this area compared to other states, according to a report from Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's STEM Task Force.

Gaines believes there are five steps STEM educators should take in order to increase proficiency and spark interest.

1.    Increase business partnerships – companies looking to hire graduates with STEM degrees need to partner with education facilities to create mentorships, internships and laboratory visits to spark student curiosity in science careers.

2.    Tap into federal labs – research labs should create programs that invite K-12 students to their facilities were they can share their own knowledge, give future career advice and work with them on science projects to increase their interest and participation in STEM activities.

3.    Cultivate minority students - women, African-Americans and Hispanics represent the smallest number for students who show interest in STEM programs.

4.    Recruit and train teachers – states should invest in professional develop programs to better prepare STEM teachers while also making the position as competitive as other subjects.

5.    Play fun and interactive games – game-based learning shows high success rates in a classroom setting, allowing students to merge their personal creativity with class curriculum.

Do you know how your state ranks in STEM education? If your child is already taking interest in STEM, tell us what your doing to help prepare them for their future.

Sarah Cechowski is the associate digital editor for Control Design and Industrial Networking. Email her at scechowski@putman.net or check out her Google+ profile.