Iowa Schools Need More Emphasis On STEM Subjects

Iowa Schools Need More Emphasis On STEM Subjects

Governor's STEM Advisory Council releases "Year 1 Assessment Report" on state of education for Iowa youth.

Iowa youth lose interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers as they get older. That's according to a report released last week by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad's STEM Advisory Council. The report, released August 15, 2013, serves as a one-year progress report for the council's education programs. STEM stands for science, engineering, technology and math.

The report found 44% of students in third through fifth grades had an interest in a STEM career, while 42% of those in sixth through eighth grades did. It shows 38% of high school students in Iowa were interested in those careers.

CHANGES NEEDED: Iowa's STEM Advisory Council released its first-year report on education programs in Iowa schools—showing that some changes are needed. STEM stands for science, engineering, technology and math. The report shows that Iowa youth lose interest in these subjects as they get older. The council aims to increase student interest and achievements in STEM.

The council aims to increase student interest and achievements in STEM. The report also says 89% of students who had participated in any of 12 exemplary programs became more interested in at least one STEM subject. In addition, mathematics and science scores were stronger from students who participated in STEM programs. "STEM is a national imperative in this era of globally competitive markets and Iowa is really well positioned to lead by example," says Mary Andringa, council chairperson and CEO of Vermeer Corporation.

Iowa STEM Council Releases First-year Assessment Report On Changes Needed In Youth Education In Iowa

Executive Order Number 81 was signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad on May 15, 2013. It declared that science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education should be strengthened as part of providing a world-class education, encouraging innovation and enhancing economic development in Iowa. The STEM Advisory Council's top priorities are to increase student interest and achievement in STEM in order to be well prepared for post-secondary study and the rewarding STEM careers that await them here in Iowa.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

Wrapping up the first implementation year of council programming, outcomes and indicators suggest a strong start, with plenty of work yet to do. Assessment of STEM Council programs is a collaborative effort of evaluation centers at Iowa's three public universities – the Center for Social and Behavioral Research, or CSBR, at the University of Northern Iowa, the Research Institute for Studies in Education, or RISE, at Iowa State University, and Iowa Testing Program, or ITP, at the University of Iowa. The group collaborated to issue their first-year report, titled "Iowa STEM Monitoring Project 2012-2013 Summary Report", at the biannual meeting of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council on August 15, 2013. The report is publicly available at the Iowa STEM website.

Major findings of the first-year assessment provide plenty to build upon. For example:

* All 12 of the 2012-13 exemplary programs scaled up across Iowa through the new STEM Network were found to increase student interest (89% of students reported more interest in at least one STEM subject after having participated).

* A steady decline is observed in the interest of Iowa youth in general when it comes to STEM topics and STEM careers, from elementary to middle school to high school.

* Ninety-four percent of Iowans surveyed believe that science and technology are making our lives better.

* The Iowa Assessment mathematics and science scores of participants in STEM Council programs were considerably stronger than the scores of young Iowans in general (an encouraging association though evaluators point out insufficient information to conclude causation).~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

The STEM Council's co-chair, Lieutenant Gov. Kim Reynolds, greets the findings with cautious optimism. "The fine work of the assessment team boosts the morale of the hundreds of professionals across the state who are working hard to implement the council's vision," she said, "while at the same time we're reminded of the 'haves and have nots' in Iowa when it comes to STEM who we owe our very best effort moving forward."

Disparity between rural schools and urban schools in offering strong STEM program

A disparity was revealed among parents when it comes to beliefs that their children are "very well prepared" in STEM subjects at school – 37% of rural versus 62% of urban parents felt so. One of the key considerations in rolling out exemplary STEM programs last year to almost 900 Iowa educators and 38,000 learners was to target regions of the state with the highest need.

Council co-chair Mary Andringa sees great value in the assessment document. "STEM is a national imperative in this era of globally competitive markets, and Iowa is really well-positioned to lead by example," she said. "Data-driven decision making informed by objective measures will keep us on the front edge."

The 2012-13 Iowa STEM Monitoring Project Summary Report is available at the Iowa STEM website.

STEM programming for FY2014 is already well underway with nine competitively selected exemplary programs being supported in some 3,800 clubs and classrooms reaching almost 100,000 Iowa youth through the Council's Network.  

About the Governor's STEM Advisory Council: Formed in 2011, the Council is a 40-member, public-private partnership dedicated to building a strong STEM education foundation for all Iowans. For more information, visit the website.

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