In January, the STEM education network100Kin10 released its annual Trends Report, which makes a number of major predictions about STEM and education in 2020.
The report shows that in recent years, 40 states in the U.S. enacted policies to improve computer science in schools. In 2017, Virginia became the first state to require computer science education beginning in kindergarten. New York City and Chicago public schools are striving to include computer science in their educational programs. However, there are few teachers qualified to teach them. According to a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, under 0.1% of K-12 teachers in the U.S. identify as engineering educators.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the shortage of STEM K-12 educators, which is especially a problem in rural school districts according to the 100Kin10 report. Among them, few universities offer engineering programs to students studying to be K-12 teachers. If teachers want to become STEM educators, many need to undergo professional development training – something few schools offer.
Some school districts, however, are starting to offer such programs. In West Virginia, for example, more than 700 K-12 teachers underwent training through the West Virginia University Center for Excellence in STEM Education’s CodeWV, which partnered with the West Virginia Department of Education. The federal government is also taking steps to address the issue. If passed, the Rural STEM Education Act, a new bill currently being considered by the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, would help fund professional learning programs for K-12 teachers in rural school districts.
The 100Kin10 report also shows that another way to boost STEM offerings in K-12 schools is to improve teacher diversity. People of color make up about half of the students in the U.S., but only 20% of educators. To get more students engaged in STEM, these students need to see themselves reflected in their STEM educators, according to 100Kin10 founder and executive director Talia Milgrom-Elcott.
“With executives and recruiters increasingly understanding the importance of a diverse workforce, we expect a corresponding increased focus on getting more students of color (and by extension, teachers of color) engaged in STEM, which is critical to increasing equality in the STEM fields,” Milgrom-Elcott wrote in Forbes.
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