In the past few years, Michigan has roared back to life as a magnet for STEM jobs like engineering, and the state's employers are right to wonder if they will be able to fill those jobs with qualified people. Fortunately, we see strong signs that Michigan leaders are on the case.
On Tuesday, I was honored to testify before Michigan's House Education Reform Committee about Change the Equation's efforts to help the state identify and scale K-12 STEM education programs that are most likely to have an impact. CTEq's STEMworks has already helped rigorously-vetted programs, such as Engineering is Elementary and Project Lead the Way, receive $1 million in state funds. We have high hopes for much more to come.
Efforts like these are very timely. For a state that was ground zero in the Great Recession, Michigan has an uplifing story to tell about STEM jobs. For example, it has been a great place for engineers. The number of engineering jobs in the state grew 11 percent from 2006 and 2016, compared to a meager 2 percent for the nation as a whole. Engineering jobs will probably grow another 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, faster than the 11 percent projected for the nation. That amounts to tens of thousands of engineering jobs.
Will employers be able to find the engineering talent they need over the coming decade? That's a harder question to answer. There is some reason for concern. First, they cannot fully tap the state's minority talent. Black, Latinos, and American Indian Michiganders make up 23 percent of the state's college-age population but receive only 5 percent of engineering degrees and certificates:
Women are almost as scarce in the field:
There's good news on the horizon: In late 2015, the state adopted academic standards in science that formally incorporate engineering principles. If other states that have adoped similar standards are any indication, all Michigan students, regardless of race or gender, will soon learn the fundamental principles of engineering.
Programs like those in STEMworks will only help.
Indiana’s I-STEM Resource Center is recommending six different science curricula in STEMworks as districts across the state gear up to adopt new curricular materials for science in 2017. A partnership of leaders in K-12 education, government, business, and universities, I-STEM worked with CTEq to identify programs that met our rigorous STEMworks criteria as well as exacting standards for science curriculum developed by I-STEM and the Purdue School of Engineering Education.
These aren’t your grandfather’s science curricula. Each engages students in hands-on, real-world experiences of science, engineering, and technology:
As districts adopt curriculum, these recommendations could carry substantial weight. Dozens of curriculum providers start knocking on district leaders’ doors when adoption time rolls around. CTEq and I-STEM are helping them separate the wheat from the chaff.
The partnership between CTEq and I-STEM represents a critical strategy to improve the quality of STEM education, one that we are pursuing in five other states and counting.
School superintendents and principals get swamped by pitches from people selling curriculum, technology, professional development programs, and any number of other solutions to their schools’ challenges. Many don’t have the background to separate the wheat from the chaff. After all, they’re not education researchers. Often, educators have to go for the best-looking brochure, and so their students don’t really benefit from the growing body of research about what is mostly likely to work in schools.
Fortunately, there is some work afoot to help superintendents and principals select the best options for their students. The U.S. Education Department recently released guidance on what evidence educators should look for as they look for programs and strategies to improve students’ performance. The Department is also revamping its What Works Clearinghouse of school research to help district and school leaders find vetted programs that might address their specific priorities.
At least one school district is taking it up a notch. At Education Week, blogger Sarah Sparks takes a look at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s plans to (among other things) “build a dashboard to allow principals to easily monitor how well initiatives or programs are working in their schools.” “In the process,” Sparks reports:
the dashboard will help schools easily collect and report data to understand how various factors—changes to the school calendar, differences in grade-spans at different schools, and the percentage of students with an individualized education plan, among others—affect student achievement.
If this strategy works, Cleveland could create a rich store of evidence for what works in Cleveland while helping school principals make much better informed choices.
Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t point to our own STEMworks honor roll of effective programs. Third-party reviewers have carefully vetted each STEMworks program for effectiveness and readiness to scale to other places, among other factors. States like Iowa and Michigan are currently turning to STEMworks for this very reason as they consider how to allocate some of their state education funding.
It's one thing to go through a stack of glossy program brochures. It's another thing entirely to seek actual evidence of what works.
If you run a STEM program that could benefit children and youth in the great state of Iowa, then be sure to throw your hat in the ring for the sixth annual Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council Scale-Up Program! For the third year running, the Council is using CTEq's STEMworks to vet programs for state funding.
Last year, upwards of $3 million went to schools across the state, reaching more than 100,000 Iowa students with some of the nation's best STEM education programs. The results have been impressive. On the Iowa tests, these students outscored peers who did not participate in Scale-Up programs. On average, they scored seven percentage points higher in math and 6 points higher in science.*
Update: Read the Council's Press Release.
Does your program offer professional development for STEM teachers? Are you ready to help teachers in Idaho? If so, the Idaho STEM Action Center might have a grant for you.
The Idaho STEM Action Center is the latest partner in our efforts to help states identify and expand the nation's best STEM education programs. It will join leading STEM organizations in states like Colorado, Indiana, Iowa and Michigan in using CTEq's rigorous STEMworks review process to find programs that are most likely to make a difference for America's youth.
As states gain more control over their education policies and purse strings, STEMworks helps them make the best decisions for their young people.
Here is the text of the Idaho announcement:
Idaho STEM Action Center announces grants for professional development programs
Change the Equation (CTEq) and the Idaho STEM Action Center are collaborating on an initiative to identify excellent teacher professional development programs in STEM. The STEM Action Center will recommend programs identified through this process for state professional development funds. Programs may apply for up to two years of funding: $75,000 in the first year and $50,000 in the second.
Apply before 3pm Mountain Time on October 4, 2016.
Programs must apply through CTEq’s STEMworks application portal. Reviewers will judge applications against Change the Equation’s rigorous Design Principles for effectiveness as well as additional state-specific criteria to assess programs’ readiness to address needs specific to Idaho.
Programs that meet the Design Principles will appear in CTEq’s nationally-recognized STEMworks honor roll of effective STEM education programs. Businesses leaders, funders, and STEM advocates regularly tap the STEMworks database for high-quality STEM programs most likely to help maximize their impact on STEM education.
Programs that meet both the STEMworks threshold and Idaho’s state-specific requirements will be considered for state funding
Register for an Informational Webinar [link pending] on STEMworks and the Application Process
On September 2 at 2:00 Mountain Time, CTEq and the Idaho STEM Action Center will host a free one-hour webinar to introduce prospective applicants to the application process.
Visit the STEMworks website to read about the individual STEMworks programs included and more about the database itself.