Does Your Child’s School Have a Quality STEM Program?
Responding to growing calls to improve science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) education, increasing numbers of public and private schools are touting their specialized STEM programs, largely centered on special technology or a particular set of course offerings. While some of these programs may be of high quality, parents and community leaders should kick the tires of local STEM education initiatives to determine the extent to which these efforts are based on what research shows will increase STEM knowledge and problem-solving skills and, as a result, spark student engagement and interest in STEM careers.
In order to do this you need to look for a number of key factors, including the extent to which STEM efforts serve all students equally- and well. Do they encourage learning across disciplines; promote student inquiry and real-world problem solving; and connect students with people working in real STEM-related careers on campuses, in industry and in the community?
My organization, AdvancED, is in the business of measuring the quality of education institutions and their programs. Based on our work, we have developed standards and criteria for parents and community leaders to quickly gauge the quality of the STEM education programs in their community. You can use these questions — and the examples of schools that we have certified as being strong in STEM — to discuss with school leaders how they might strengthen their STEM offerings.
Here are some initial questions you can ask:
- Is the STEM learning program interdisciplinary and problem-based, encouraging deeper learning through real-world projects? In excellent STEM programs, students learn not just science, technology, engineering, and mathematical processes and practices but also across and beyond STEM disciplines. They develop competencies such as collaboration and communication skills necessary for success in college and career. Middleton Magnet High School in Tampa, Florida, for example, —> Read More