Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, incredibly, is not yet as well recognized and understood as it should be; in fact, some people do not even know what the acronym stands for or they may confuse it with “stem” cell research (which is what often comes up when the acronym is entered into search engines).
Fortunately, an aggressive marketing campaign by the government, private organizations and school systems is slowly changing this public perception.
In a world where technology is becoming increasingly important, any educational system that fails to embrace, if not completely succumb to, technology and the subjects needed to make the best use thereof will be in trouble. One need only look at the phenomenal success of electronic mobile devices—more specifically, cell phones. These devices can now be commonly found in the most remote places on earth, as well as the most populated (i.e., China, India, Pakistan, etc.).
That technology is reaching even the poorest, most remote corners of the world is a testament to the power behind this area of science. This is not, by the way, just a matter of money or the huge number of jobs these new technologies are creating (although these things are important), but the new ways of thinking that are being introduced. Electronic devices are, quite literally, changing the world, ostensibly for the better.
With the promise of wonderful things to come, though, great concerns and caveats also abound. Who’s going to fill all these technology/science jobs that may be created in the next 20 years? Will the developing countries surpass the developed countries since, after all, most manufacturing jobs have been heading their way for the past 50 years? Who is going to take over for all those persons who will be leaving (because of sickness, retirement, death, etc.) sophisticated, high-technology jobs?
Clearly, Michigan, like the rest of the states, is looking at some wonderful opportunities to fully prepare for what promises to be a challenging future. Is enough being done, though, to fully develop and successfully proliferate STEM literacy? What will be the result if these programs and initiatives are not fully supported by all stakeholders (students, parents, business professionals, institutions of higher learning, workforce development programs, government agencies, etc.)?
If the state of Michigan does what it has publicly vowed to do (i.e., aggressively support STEM education in all its facets and using all vehicles available), then the state will be prepared for what is coming. One thing to remain sanguine about is the fact that many things in most people’s private, home lives are feeding or naturally setting the stage for STEM education.
For instance, the Internet, social networking sites, online gaming, mobile electronic devices, high definition TV—all these things are the products of STEM education subjects. To put it more bluntly, none of these things would be available had the people who produced them not pursued the subjects so many American students have hitherto only seen as intimidating, obscure, “for geeks only,” and too-time-consuming. In addition to using these things, though, students may someday aspire to develop sleeker versions.
A STEM education is probably one of the most powerful tools students in Michigan should be vying for. Doing something no one did before, making lives easier for everyone, making something better, inventing something totally new—these are the thoughts that occupied some of the greatest inventors/entrepreneurs (Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Steven Jobs, etc.) of American history.
These same types of thoughts may, because of STEM education, once again capture the hearts of Michigan’s most promising young, ambitious minds. In other words, the sky is the limit when it comes to STEM education and what it may lead to in the future!
The State of Michigan: General Facts and Figures
Sometimes called “Water Winter Wonderland,” “Wolverine State,” or “Great Lake State,” the great state of Michigan has much to be proud of. It has a rich, colorful history, is a favorite spot for tourists, and boasts of many valuable resources—including some of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world.
With a population shy of 10,000,000 people and 57,022 square miles of land area, the state is unique in many ways. Some of those unique features include:
i. It’s 9,607 mile State Trunkline System is toll-free
ii. It’s the only state that makes contact with 4 of the 5 Great Lakes.
iii. Although its capital is Lansing, its biggest city is Detroit.
iv. The state has 83 counties, 40 of which make contact with at least one of the Great Lakes.
v. It has in excess of 36,000 miles of streams and 11,000 inland lakes.
vi. While in the state, you are never more than 6 miles from its great bodies of water; you are also never more than 85 miles away from one of the Great Lakes.
The state’s many natural resources, rich wildlife (including some indigenous to the area), and well-diversified flora/fauna make it a unique environment for science studies and research (especially for the life sciences). STEM education puts a heavy emphasis on showing (not just telling) and on hands-on teaching/learning.
Fortunately for Michigan’s approximately 1,582,168+ students, the state is ideally suited for many of the careers a STEM education favors: a plethora of interdisciplinary engineering fields, agricultural technology, aquatic biologist, earth scientist, energy researcher, geologist and even chief microbiologist aka local brewmaster, etc.
State of Michigan: School Systems Basic Facts & Educational Infrastructure
In order to fully appreciate and understand the unique needs of Michigan’s educational system and student body, it is essential to reflect upon a few basic statistics about the state. One important aspect that must be grasped is the rather large size of the state; additionally, the state boasts of great diversity—meaning that one-size-fits-all solutions/initiatives probably will not fare well in Michigan.
Some of the most important statistics applicable to STEM education initiatives include:
There are approximately 1,582,168 total students in Michigan as of 2012—that is, 765,838 females and 816,330 males.To address the needs of these students, the state invests a little over $7,000 per pupil in the form of aid; the federal government provides about $11.1 billion. For their pains, teachers receive about $61,560 annually.2
Within the 83 counties in the state, there are 861 total school districts—i.e., 57 Intermediate School Districts (ISDs), 549 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and 256 Public School Academies (PSAs).2
In these districts there are about 3,853 public schools overseen by approximately 88,051 K-12 public school teachers; the teacher-to-student ratio is 1-per-23, on average.3
As for student academic performance outcomes and accountability, the following figures reveal important progress:2
Four-year Drop-Out Rate: 11.1% – 10.71%
Four-year Graduation Rate: 74.3% – 76.24%
ACT College Preparedness Benchmarks 17.3% – 17.7%
ACT Composite Scores 19.3% – 19.6%
Michigan Merit Exam Student Proficiency 17.1% 17.9%
Math & Reading 3-8 Student Proficiency 34% – 37.8%
Math & Reading 3-8—Progress Shown by Students 14.5% – 14.4%
3rd Grade Reading Proficiency 62% – 68%
Schools Meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) 79.3% – 81.9%
Michigan’s “STEM Partnership Declaration”
“It would be a life changer and state changer if we can get kids more successful in math and science.”—from Michael P. Flanagan, Michigan’s Superintendent of Public Instruction
According to STEM Connector, the STEM Partnership Declaration is a “statewide collaboration of committed leaders from PK-20 education, as well as business and industry, philanthropy, economic development, government, military, and other organizations dedicated to elevating STEM literacy and proficiencies in a way that increases Michigan’s economic strength to retain and attract desirable jobs.”1
When STEM is properly integrated into a curriculum, students don’t just learn certain subjects better, they develop intellectual skills that not only will help them prepare for the job market but also give them the tools to succeed in all areas of life. These “tools” include problem-solving, observational, analytical, and critical thinking skills.
As students develop these critically-important skills, they help their school systems to become more globally-oriented, place a higher value on life-long learning and create the next generation of superlative leaders (without which no society can prosper). People, in other words, not institution, set bars of achievement for generations that follow; schools have a responsibility to graduate the best role models possible—students who will inspire others and introduce the future’s best innovations.
Whether students succeed, however, cannot depend just on their individual efforts or, for that matter, what schools do or fail to do. What are needed, instead, are well-coordinated, extensive private/public partnerships. Such partnerships can better enable young people to pursue whatever careers they have set their minds/hearts on, develop a better understanding of why the sciences matter tremendously, and, in the long run, build a much stronger future for the state of Michigan.
In short, the Michigan STEM Partnership strives to accomplish its far-reaching, expansive goals by:
• Opening the door widely for the sincere and uninhibited participation of a variety of stakeholders with an extensive spectrum of capacities, interests and expertise
• Working closely with all different areas of Michigan in assessing STEM assets already in place
• Coordinating with all major stakeholders (government agencies, the military, etc.) in the development/passing of laws, policies and initiatives favorable to STEM education
• Working to develop the networks that will be necessary to create/support the jobs needed for future STEM education graduates
• Coordinating with all Michigan communities to create STEM education platforms in keeping with popular student/teacher needs and interests
• Producing evidence-based models of sustainable, innovative and scalable STEM education programs, policies and platforms
Title II, Part B of NCLB-Authorized “Mathematics & Science Partnerships (MSP)” Program
MSP attempts to help students of math and science do better academically by making sure their teachers acquire the teaching skills and enhanced content knowledge essential for STEM subjects. In the past, the prevailing assumption was that just having a degree in a subject was enough to qualify someone to teach; it was also assumed that all subjects could be taught using under the same methodology, platforms and environments.
It has now become clear, however, that some subjects—more specifically, math and the sciences—require special methodologies and tools. There is also more of an impetus today to keep up with the latest technology. Students may no longer be properly educated by someone who, in spite of having a degree in a subject, has very little hands-on experience in the field. Theory, in other words, may not be enough, especially for STEM education initiatives.
How then can school systems institute STEM education programs if their staff lack knowledge in needed fields, hands-on experience (rather important in physics, engineering, computer science, etc.), or the extra training needed (as may be needed simply to keep up with the latest developments)? The answer lies in the development of partnerships between training-needy districts and STEM faculty of higher-education institutions, as well as with other stakeholders (businesses, government agencies, etc.).
According to Section 99 of Michigan’s School Aid Act, the partnership must also include of the state’s Science/Math Centers.5 Other partner stakeholders may include teaching degree colleges, public schools (including charter schools), businesses, and organizations (including nonprofits) involved with/concerned about STEM subjects education.5
The Most Important Components of a STEM Education Program
While each state is different, there are some common educational core aspects and topics that every STEM education program should employ, advocate or, in some cases, experiment with. Some of the most basic components include:
Standards-Based Designs: The process, of course, should begin by embracing nationally recognized standards—i.e., NCTM (2000), NRC (1996), ISTE (2007), ITEA (2007), etc. These, simply put, provide frameworks or maps that can lead to the same place. Uniformity and conformity are not necessarily the guideposts but, rather, a “shared vision.”
Understanding by Design or UbD: This visionary way of looking at education is already embraced by many private organizations, government agencies and educational institutions—in other words, it already has an established foundation from which STEM education can draw. The three aspects of UbD are Learning Plan, Assessment Evidence and Desired Results.
Inquiry-Based Learning and Teaching: Inquiry is almost always an alluded to component of education reform. The path of learning that STEM education should follow is diagramed by CurrTech Integrations as going from confirmatory, structured, guided, and, then, “open inquiry.”
Problem-Based Learning (PBL): In this student-centered approach to learning, collaboration is stressed as students ask pertinent questions that lead to practical solutions and, finally, to exchange of mutually conceived ideas.
Performance-Based Learning & Teaching: Students, using this paradigm, are encouraged to work together in solving complex problems. The fruits of their intellectual labor are then assessed using creatively intuitive and revealing assessment tools.
5E Learning, Teaching and Assessing Cycle: At the core of this way of learning/teaching are the 5 cycles: exploration, engagement, elaboration, explanation and evaluation. Many studies have proven the effectiveness of this demanding and rewarding system.
Digital Teaching Technologies Integrated with Digital Curriculum: Clearly, digital technology is the wave of the future; not only is it more efficient, faster, and in many ways less expensive (than paper or analog based technology), it is now more in tune with what students are already heavily immersed in (i.e., using the Internet, electronic mobile devices, social networking sites, etc.).
Summative and Formative Assessments with Non-task and Task-Specific Parameters: Today’s standards are too multi-faceted, sophisticated and comprehensive to be satisfied by old testing/assessment paradigms and tools. Accordingly, alternative forms of assessments are now being used extensively.
The “Flipped” Classroom & Digital Classes; Getting Society to Accept Radically Different Paradigms of Education
The “flipped” classroom is more than just another “place” where education can occur. In fact, it’s what has been called an “inversion” of the traditional classroom. In the traditional, mortar-and-brick classroom, a teacher stood in front of a class, delivered a lesson/lecture (occasionally allowing questions and comments) and then tested students later on using the same types of tests over and over again.
In the “flipped” classroom, however, students may exercise more autonomy, although most of what the traditional classroom offered (contrary to what some people think) can still be accessed through the flipped classroom. At their own pace and in the comfort of home, students can access learning resources, including taped lessons by the teacher. The students can also interact with the teacher and other students completely online using a number of tools (webcams, electronic discussion boards, chat rooms, etc.).
The main advantage of the flipped classroom is that it offers many more educational tools (including access to the biggest research tool in the history of the world: the Internet) than have been present in traditional mortar-and-brick classrooms. It is also more in line with what the future will offer, considering how expensive fuel is becoming, how well virtual classrooms can work, and how much technology will preside over everything (including K-12 education).
The Role Parents Play in How Well Students Accept/Interact with STEM Initiatives
A major study helped to illustrate how important parent influence/participation is in deciding if students will do well or eagerly anticipate STEM education initiatives and programs. The name of the study is “Helping Parents to Motivate Adolescents in Mathematics and Science: An Experimental Test of a Utility-value Intervention.” The study simply involved sending parents brochures and the link to a site extolling the need for STEM education; to make sure parents paid attention, they had to rate the website.
The results of the study revealed that students were motivated by their parents to show more enthusiasm about STEM subjects/careers. Perhaps parents have more power than they realize. Students are more likely to embrace new programs if they feel that parents are behind them 100%. This is a great lesson that needs to be imparted to every parent in Michigan.
Why Schools and Companies in Michigan Need to Support and Invest in K-12 STEM Education
The consensus is that the job market of the future will be much more competitive than ever before. Those graduating from high school and going on to college will be competing for jobs not only with fellow graduates but with what has become a global job-seeking community. The competition will be even more challenging for STEM-related careers.
Other facts which clearly illustrate how important STEM education will be in the future to the US in general include:
The expected number of STEM-related jobs that will need to be filled in Michigan by 2018 is about 274,000.
The average salary for STEM-related occupations in 2005 through 2008 was about $74,958.00.
The US Department of Labor anticipates that jobs/careers requiring technical, engineering or science education will grow by 34% between 2008 thru 2018.
The number of workers (about 5,700,000 million in 2007) Science and engineering (S&E) has expanded by about 6.2% annually ever since 1950; this is about 4 times the 1.6% regular labor force growth rate.
About 91% of United States STEM-related jobs will necessitate a college education by 2018.
Roughly 174,000 S&E Doctoral degrees were given out globally in 2006; 17% or 30,000 of those were awarded in the US. More than ½ of all those degrees given in the same year went to non-US citizens. In comparison, China and the European Union have outpaced the US in this academic area.
Noting that Michigan’s economy in the future will strongly depend on STEM education jobs, ASTRA, furthermore, stresses that:
In the period between 2008 thru 2018, new job opportunities necessitating a post-secondary education will expand by 116,000, while jobs for high school dropouts and graduates will expand only by 22,000.
In the period between 2008 thru 2018, Michigan will produce 1,300,000 job opportunities. 103,000 of these jobs may be suitable for high school dropouts; 388,000 may suit high school graduates; but 836,000 of these jobs will necessitate post-secondary credentials.
Roughly 62% of projected jobs in Michigan or about 2,900,000 jobs will necessitate some post-secondary training after high school for 2018.
Women in Technical Fields—Gross Under-Representation
Women continue to be under-represented in most high-technology industries—healthcare being one of the few exceptions. One of the major goals of STEM, consequently, is to try to close the gap that has somehow persisted for so long.
One of the reasons for the problem is an apparent lack of interest in young girls for engineering, as well as other STEM subjects. Michigan K-12 schools, therefore, will have to find ways to attract and keep more young women into STEM education programs. Maybe if they were to see more female engineer “role model” teachers, girls would be more likely to delve into these fields?
Low-income & Minorities Under-Represented in Technical Fields and Not Meeting STEM Requirements at All Grade Levels—How to “Stem” the Tide
Yet other groups that are grossly under-represented in technical fields are minorities. The state of Michigan has publicly acknowledged that and has vowed to do what it can to change the numbers.
Ironically, though, many of the people who are coming from other countries to fill STEM-related jobs are minorities. This, however, should not be taken to mean that American minorities should not be aggressively prompted to go into STEM-related educational programs and careers.
This problem may be more of an up-hill battle than the gap that exists for females. For some reason, minority students do okay in STEM education subject only up to a certain grade, then, on average, their grades drop continuously and significantly as they head into high school.
Studies may be needed to see why minority students do so poorly in STEM subjects. The numbers are also not impressive for some low-income students, regardless of race, prompting experts to opine that reasons for the educational gaps may include financial hardship.
“Own & Shape Your Planet” Educational Perspective
Another advantage STEM education has going for it is the fact that it ties in well with the “Green Movement.” Many young people today are concerned about the planet and they want to do what they can so that, when they grow up, trees will still be available, the water will be potable, and pollution will have been sufficiently controlled.
By developing a love for the life sciences, students can turn their concern into a well-paying, satisfying career. Again, it is a matter of letting students see a real life-connection between what they learn in the classroom and what they can realistically and beneficially apply to life.
Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP)—Tying Its Mission/Goals to Michigan’s Plans
The Office of Science and Technology Policy was established through a special Act of Congress in 1976. Broadly speaking, the Act was intended to let the President and other government leaders know how technology and science was affecting or should be affecting domestic and international policymaking.
Furthermore, Congress authorized OSTP to “lead interagency efforts to develop and implement sound science and technology policies and budgets, and to work with the private sector, state and local governments, the science and higher education communities, and other nations toward this end.”
The future of STEM education may hinge on how well this and similar laws/initiatives are used and supported since it is clear that states by themselves cannot bear the financial, political and administrative burdens of national implementation.
The goals/objectives of OSTP, in fact, are perfectly aligned with what STEM should strive for/achieve in Michigan:
• Make sure that every penny the government invests in technology and science translates into biggest possible contribution to national security, environmental quality, public health and economic prosperity.
• Nurture and boost the means by which government programs/initiatives in technology and science are coordinated, resourced and evaluated.
• Revive and keep feeding the scientific and professional relationships between academicians, government officials and industry leaders necessary to grasp and appreciate the importance of scientific advances, potentially helpful policy proposals, and the national technical/scientific enterprise.
• Create and regularly tap into a national intellectual consortium of experts best equipped to advise and influence government decision-making in the areas of technology and science.(14)
Project-Based Learning—Adapting It to Michigan’s Plans
One of the most interesting and, of course, entertaining aspects of STEM education are the exhibitions, presentations and hands-on experiments that have become the hallmark of a campaign to market STEM education. Whether it’s planting miniature trees in an indoor garden, growing organisms in special tanks, making elaborate structures using LEGO blocks, watching robots perform special tricks, etc., young people get a kick out of such presentations.
The idea behind these presentations, though, is not to entertain but to show students the connection between what they must do in class (the hated math homework) and what they can one day do with that knowledge. Project-based learning allows students to participate in their own hands-on events, often becoming captains of their educational experience, as opposed to mere spectators.
Colleges/Universities’ Role in STEM Education Development
Although some people get trapped in the notion that K-12 STEM education resides in a public school vacuum, nothing could be further from the truth. STEM education may take place at K-12 schools but the sophisticated technology that is often necessary to fully illustrate (if not access) STEM education can only be found in local companies, government agencies and schools of higher learning (colleges, universities and technical schools).
For this and other reasons, strong partnerships have to be developed between schools and these other stakeholders. Some of the college-connected/geared programs and initiatives that are apt to have a big impact on STEM education in Michigan include:
The Future Faculty Fellowship (FFF): supports under-represented individuals wishing to pursue post-secondary teaching careers.
The State of Michigan-funded College Day (CD) Program: merged with the US Department of Education’s GEAR UP! Program, it supports low-income students wanting to get into post-secondary education.
The Select Student Support Services (4S) Program: provides competitive grants for disadvantaged students wanting to attend 4-year institutions; emphasis may be given in the future to students pursuing STEM education programs.
The Michigan College/University Partnership (MICUP) Program: provides funding to schools, especially in reference to financially disadvantaged students.
The Visiting Professor (VP) Program: provides funding to Michigan’s public colleges that move to hire more instructors from under-represented groups.
The Morris Hood Educator Development (MHED) Program: provides funding for schools with Teacher Education (TE) programs.
The Benefits of STEM Education
While the benefits that can be derived from STEM education are too numerous to list in a relatively concise report, the ones that stand out most impressively include:
a. It lets students use the same tools (the Internet, electronic mobile devices, etc.) at school that they are voraciously and enthusiastically using at home.
b. It can lead to substantial savings as schools become more efficient by using the latest technologies.
c. It will make Michigan and the US more competitive nationally and globally by better preparing students for the jobs of the future.
d. It encourages important partnerships between different community stakeholders (businesses, civic organizations, federal agencies, nonprofits, etc.).
e. It creates an environment of collaboration and cooperation.
f. It encourages students who might not otherwise think of STEM educational programs and careers.
g. It helps students (through exhibitions and experiments led by visiting experts) to see the connection between what they learn in class and practical uses for “theory.”
h. It encourages preparation of teachers who will be thus be better qualified to teach traditionally-feared subjects.
i. It helps to dispel the many myths and misconceptions that have kept students from seriously considering STEM careers.
j. In time, it may help bring manufacturing jobs back to the US.
k. It can help the US regain some of the dominance it once had in several industries.
l. It may once again establish the US as a Mecca for inventors.
m. It may help students develop love and respect for science—instead of the fear too many students have of mathematics, science and engineering.
n. It can help school districts to become more diversified, open-minded and better-prepared for the future.
o. It can help school districts to more quickly and efficiently embrace virtual education which, incidentally, goes hand-in-hand with STEM education.
p. It may motivate businesses to more eagerly support local schools—if they start seeing these places of learning as rich sources/pools of potential future employees.
q. It may stave off the need to import labor in technical fields because there have not been enough US-born Americans to meet the demands.
r. It should encourage more students with a science, math or engineering background to go into teaching.
s. It may help motivate the government to be more generous with funds for local school systems—if government officials see STEM education as a valuable national interests/security investment.
t. It may provide much-needed candidates for important private industries (manufacturing engineering, healthcare equipment/device maintenance, etc) and government agencies (the military, research labs, etc.) whose job vacancies will increase as baby boomers retire.
When discussing STEM education, it is essential that homeschooling not be forgotten since many of Michigan’s parents/guardians choose to home school their children. While each state has its own guidelines regarding homeschooling, pandemic requirements include making it mandatory for all children to receive a formal education.
This requirement may be met by having children attend public schools, go to alternate parochial or private schools, or, the most controversial/complicated of the three, prepare, submit and implemented (once approved) a homeschooling plan to the state.
In preparing and implementing a homeschooling program, there are a number of things to take into consideration, including eligibility requirements, standardized testing guidelines, school hours, record-keeping, core subjects, and a formal/written curriculum. In order to meet the specific requirements, some people choose to use the services of an umbrella school.
Umbrella schools are a special type of school. In addition to helping with the previous topics, these accredited (albeit somewhat different than the traditional mortar-and-brick institution) schools help parents or guardians meet all legal, administrative and activities-related requirements. Those activities can include resources, field trips, team sports activities, and, most importantly, tutoring.
At the core of these services, though, is the impetus to help parents/guardians get their homeschooling approved; secondly, practical and constructive assistance is provided to implement the plan, as well as to meet on-going local and state requirements.
Umbrella schools not only help to add legitimacy to homeschooling plans but they can also put out report cards, officially keep track of attendance, and even provide official student IDs (useful, among other ways, for getting discounts from local merchants).
Parents/guardians who choose to home school their children might also consider specialized services (e.g., STEM.org) and programs that can help the process easier and, in some cases, meet educational requirements. Some such programs offered by organizations like Initiative Science include:
• Urban Gardening/Farming: Lets students experience what’s like to grow things, create gardens and experience (not just read about) what it means to go “green!”
• Distance Learning: Based on the most recent Common Core (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), these cloud-based learning activities are fun, colorful and kid-friendly; they are open to individual parents (as well as to school districts) and do not require special software.
• Extended Day: These are over 500 topics delved into through over 150 before/after-school programs in STEM and beyond (including reading and ESL).
• Beta Projects: These special programs help enhance/expand learning experience and curricula through science events, science fair, the “F@cilit@tion” program (bringing experts to your site), educational consulting, and program assessment/data collection.
• Sapere Aude: Allows students to participate in special activity in the summer.
• Test Preparation: Helps students prepare for a number of important tests: MEAP, NAEP, GED, PLAN, ACT, PSAT, NMSQT, SAT, STAR, TOEFL, etc.
• MEAP Cram: Helps identify and address key weaknesses before taking the MEAP.
• SOIL: This Scientific Offsite Interactive Learning set of over 100 activities/programs based on Next Generation Science Standards helps students to better identify/understand intricate scientific topics/concepts.
• STEM Certification: This is a quality assurance training program for both formal & informal educators that establishes benchmarks for quality STEM educational instruction
• STEM Accreditation: This is a quality assurance training program for schools, districts & organizations that establishes benchmarks for quality STEM educational programs
Core Performance Indicator (CPI) Trends (by Region) Reports
Because of the Perkins Act of 2006, states are required to create and implement academic performance accountability systems that can accurately evaluate the effectiveness of local and state recipients of funding in the area of Career and Technical Education (CTE).
The state-constructed performance tools are to consist of recommended core indicators, state-specific/adjusted performance levels for said indicators, and any special indicators the state may wish to utilize. Eight of the Core Performance Indicators (CPIs) in Michigan are:
• Nontraditional Completion
• Nontraditional Participation
• Student Graduation Rate
• School Completion
• Technical Skill Attainment
• Academic Attainment in Mathematics
• Academic Attainment in Reading
These CPIs may help Career and Technical Education administrators in Michigan to ascertain what CPI initiatives and programs are working (or not) within Career Education Planning Districts (CEPDs) and designated Regions.
Michigan’s K-12 STEM Education Report Card
This report is meant to be an integral part of Michigan’s STEM education assessment paraphernalia. Some of the important facts the latest Report Card revealed, for example, included population-related trends, job market statistics, and, of course, how well schools in Michigan are doing in terms of reaching common STEM education goals and objectives.
Michigan District & School Proficiency Targets
Also known as “Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs), proficiency targets will be a means by which the state will measure the progress/success of all schools and districts. The data thus collected will be used for the MEAP-Access, MEAP, MI-Access, and MME assessments criteria.
These targets will be determined for each school and district in specific content areas: reading, mathematics, social studies, science, and writing. The results thereof will provide subject-level proficiency rates to be used by each school and district as unique, individualized measuring rods; in essence, they are arbitrary score cards. The rates will be expected to increase steadily, consistently and noticeably, with a goal of 85% by the school year 2021-2022.4
Michigan State Board of Education & Department of Education “Goal & Reform Priorities” (2012-2013 Annual Report)
Noting that Michigan must maintain an equitable/effective performance-based education system, the State Board of Education has committed to the following four STEM-education-supportive, reform priority areas:
I. Student achievement amelioration through innovation
• Support “any time, any place,” personalized school instruction
• Increase early post-secondary learning options for students: early college and dual enrollment, career/technical learning, advanced placement, etc.
• Increase blended and distance education options
• Launch studies on education innovation/finance best practices
• Come up with and implement creative interventions on behalf of poorly performing schools
• Aggressively address academic performance/achievement gaps, especially in regards to African-American students
• Follow Career & College Ready Standards
II. Student performance-based School Systems
• Support rewards for high-performance schools
• Institute policies that provide incentives for high performance by schools, including reduction for academic remediation
• Institute one main state-wide academic performance accountability system
III. Training and preparation for effective teachers
• Re-program teacher certification that accommodates ability to focus on Career & College Ready Standards
• Raise the bar on teacher certification, including training and student teaching requirements
• Develop and institute fair and accurate teacher and administrator evaluation procedures/plan using multifaceted measuring tools and based on performance
• Provide alternative methods for certification
• Support performance-based career credentials for teachers (e.g., the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
• Increase support for the professional development, induction and mentoring of new teachers
IV. Early Childhood Education & Care
• Work to consolidate early childhood education and care programs
• Support use of the Great Start to Quality, which provides standards for early learning/development facilities
• Implement proactive Kindergarten student evaluation systems
• Increase early learning programs for children with highest needs preceding Kindergarten admittance
Major Hurdles STEM Faces in the State of Michigan
The biggest obstacles standing in the way of full STEM education incorporation and support are the same hurdles this new way of looking at education confronts in the rest of the country, notwithstanding the unique needs and demands of Michigan. These common barriers, furthermore, come in the form of myths and misconceptions. They can include:
A. STEM education is too heavily concerned with mathematics and science.
B. Engineering and technology are merely peripherally important subjects, unobtrusively floating under mathematics and science.
C. Engineers are not qualified to teach math and science.
D. Technology education instructors are not best suited to teach math and science.
E. Engineering and technology education are remotely-important subjects that may be too difficult for most students.
F. STEM education concentrates exclusively on workforce matters.
G. Math education is not a science category subject.
H. Every STEM education student will be coerced into technical careers/industries because they will lack a liberal arts foundation.
I. The scientific method and laboratory work is not included in STEM education.
J. Inquiry and hands-on learning are synonymous.
K. Inquiry is always open-ended.
L. Being able to apply spreadsheets, word processors, and PowerPoint is what we mean by “technology.”
M. All technology programs are primarily concerned with giving students and schools access to computers and other fancy electronics.
N. STEM high school course credits will not be acceptable to most colleges.
O. STEM education will probably drift away eventually, like every other transient fad.(20)
10 Most Important Things Michigan Must Do to Make STEM Education Thrive
Although the state of Michigan is already doing much to support STEM education, the fact is that more can be done. More importantly, whatever is done needs to be done in a way that will elicit maximum support from all stakeholders, especially students, parents and teachers. The following ten actions should receive top priority:
1. Re-arrange how funding takes place for educational programs, making sure that the proceeds received are distributed fairly, equitably and efficiently. Some people still see STEM and virtual education as experimental and, therefore, not worthy of 100% support. These people need to be motivated to change their minds.
2. Frantically work to recruit more people from the sciences, engineering and math into teaching; institute proactive teacher training programs in STEM education.
3. Continue to educate the community about the realities of STEM education, making sure to regularly and aggressively address myths and misconceptions still surfing up.
4. Develop even stronger partnerships with community stakeholders in order to solidify support for STEM education.
5. Continue to look for or create means by which more funding for STEM education will be provided. The more money is invested, the more can be done.
6. Continue to invite experts (especially from local colleges) to come do special exhibitions, presentations and experiments. These presentations help illustrate what STEM is all about—in other words, it is not just about boring theory.
7. Partner with the federal government and other states in order to put on more presentations, seminars, training sessions, and exhibition.
8. Find and implement proactive initiatives that will help close education gaps for girls, low-income, the disabled, and minorities.
9. Work harder to provide virtual, blended and STEM education classes and programs; the best way to take advantage of technology is by using it in classrooms and in presentations.
10. Work to better integrate STEM and virtual education; the two complement each other and both are of extreme importance to the great state of Michigan.
STEM education may well be the tool that may put the US back on the map as the leader in manufacturing, new inventions, food production, research, and educational excellence. This will only happen, however, if this new teaching/learning ecosystem is carefully nurtured and allowed to reach its full potential.
The state of K-12 STEM education in the state of Michigan is, fortunately, in very good shape. In fact, in some ways Michigan is setting the pace for other, less-committed and interested states. While no one wants to invest more money into something relatively new, this is one time when the state cannot possibly lose by putting more money into STEM education. In fact, STEM education may be the single most important area of investment Michigan has seen in the last 50 years.
Glossary of Technical Terms
Academic Vocabulary: Terminology creating communication bridges across different areas of curricula.
Adult Learning Principles: A set of innovative learning/teaching principles that respect student autonomy, invite life-experience learning, and make learning more personally relevant.
Benchmarks: Standards or means by which performance can be evaluated using comparative paradigms.
Close Read: Deliberately reading complex text closely and repeatedly in order to better glean from it.
Competencies: Measurable abilities/skills that connect to specific STEM education subjects.
Complex Question: The type of open-ended questions that leads to higher-order thinking and analysis.
Computational Thinking: A problem analysis system that uses generalizations, option trials, algorithmic automated solution thinking, abstract data models, data analysis/organization, and problem formulation easily lending itself to the use of modern day technology.
Computer Literacy: Having the basic skills necessary to interact productively with computers and related hardware.
Convergent Thinking: Bringing about all available thought to bear on a specific problem.
Critical Thinking: The use of reasoning skills and logic to arrive at solutions.
Digital Citizen: People who use Cyberspace responsibly.
Digital Etiquette: The set of sometimes unwritten rules of proper behavior users of Cyberspace are expected to abide by.
Divergent Thinking: Thinking that is open enough to consider tangential and perhaps explosively different ideas.
Domain-Specific Vocabulary: Terminology specific to particular areas of study.
Educational Technology: The use of audiovisual aids and multimedia to enhance the learning experience.
Higher Order Thinking Skills: Creative, meta-cognitive, reflective, logical and critical thinking skills; they are called into question when students are confronted with unusually complex problems.
Indicators: Numbers or some other means by which to gauge progress or the lack thereof—a measuring tool.
Informational Text: written material that includes functional, procedural, technical expository, and non-fiction text.
Integrated Curriculum: An interdisciplinary teaching/learning paradigm that helps both students and teachers see how all the rubrics in a complex educational system are integrally connected.
Iterative: A set of procedures, steps or message that continue to be transmitted/exchanged until a specific resolution is reached.
Lesson Seed: Lesson-building ideas.
Meta Cognition: Deliberate keen awareness of the process of knowing/learning.
Open-Ended Questions: Questions requiring more full or meaningful answers than simple yes, no, or very limited response parameters.
Opportunity Cost: What may have been gained with an alternative option.
Primary Source: A direct or original source for obtained information/data.
Prior Knowledge: What students bring with them to learning environments.
Process-Oriented Experiences: Activities for students that require participatory, collaborative and highly inquisitive learning processes.
Professional Learning Communities (PLC): Groups of educators committed to innovative, effective and shared-vision learning/teaching paradigms.
Prototype: A workable, smaller version or model of a new idea/design.
Qualitative: Subjective or subject-to-opinion analysis not involving mathematics.
Quantitative: Means by which to analyze things using numbers/math.
Secondary Source: Information source not originally produced/experienced by that person.
Self-directed: Self-monitoring and not in need of supervision.
Spatial Thinking: The finding of solutions for unique problems using space properties.
Technical Audience: Persons in technical fields, including business.
Technology Literacy: The capacity to understand and utilize technology comfortably and beneficially.
Unit Seed: Basic thoughts and concepts that can be used to gauge student understanding.
CCSS: Common Core State Standards
MDE: Michigan Department of Education
MEAP: Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP)
MSP: Mathematics & Science Partnership
MVU: Michigan Virtual University
NCLB: No Child Left Behind
PBGE: Partnership for Biotech and Genomics Education
STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
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