“For California to maintain its leadership in high-tech innovation, the state must emphasize helping students become literate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM),” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said, as his STEM Task Force issued a report titled INNOVATE: A Blueprint for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in California Public Education.
“California is in a new era of education, where getting students ready for college and career means acknowledging the needs of tomorrow’s workforce,” Torlakson said. “The new Blueprint for STEM will help us chart that course for the future and meet that demand.”
The STEM Task Force was charged by Torlakson and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) with drafting a new vision and direction for STEM education in the state. The resulting Blueprint for STEM offered recommendations in seven general areas to expand and improve STEM education in California:
1. Public Awareness: Increase public awareness about the importance of STEM education to ensure support for these fields of study.
2.Resources: Increase support for STEM learning from government, business, charities, and communities through partnerships.
3.Access: Make high-quality STEM experiences and programs accessible to all students in and out of school, before and after school, and to underrepresented youth and girls.
4.Framework: Establish guidance for STEM teaching and learning in all grades that line up with the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards.
5. Professional Learning: Adopt policies and standards to train teachers in STEM education.
6.Assessment and Accountability: Consider STEM in the state’s testing and accountability systems.
7.Availability of STEM Materials: Ensure that STEM programs can identify and access excellent learning resources.
The Blueprint for STEM noted that California is in a prime position for enhancing STEM education, as the state is actively engaged in remodeling the K-12 system through Common Core and Local Control Funding Formula implementation.
STEM jobs are expected to grow 21.4 percent over the next five years, versus a 10.4 percent growth in jobs overall, and business leaders say they do not have enough skilled workers to fill these jobs. Even students who work outside the STEM fields will have to deal with complex issues that require strong science competence. They will also be consumers of increasingly sophisticated technologies.
Torlakson convened the STEM Task Force two years ago, made up of parents, teachers, administrators, and industry leaders. It is led by Herb Brunkhorst, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education at California State University, San Bernardino; and Susan Hackwood, Ph.D., Executive Director of the California Council on Science and Technology. Members examined the status of STEM learning in the state, including curriculum, instructional practices, professional development for teachers, student testing, existing infrastructure, and partnerships with the community and business.