Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)

Within the last 20 years we have gone from interacting with information by tediously sifting through thousands of pages of text at our local libraries to instantly accessing information whenever we want it, wherever we are.  We take this information at face value and seemingly put all of our trust in the first Google hit that we get in response to our search query.  While our increasing access to information is assuredly transforming our world for the better, information assimilated without understanding or review can quickly lead us to false paradigms that are difficult to change. 

With national initiatives in place to increase educational standards (specifically the No Child Left Behind Act) there comes the inevitable need for progress assessment.  Many class subjects lend themselves well to a more traditional “multiple choice” testing format, but science assessment has struggled to employ this technique effectively.  Science education combines a mixture of rote memorization, which can be tested by traditional methods, with an understanding of the scientific method, problem solving, and deeper scientific inquiry, which are difficult to summarize for the purpose of answering “A, B, C or D”.

The National Research Council (NRC) recently reaffirmed the importance of science in K-12 education by recommending that science receive the same emphasis as that currently being given to math and reading under the No Child Left Behind Act. The NRC’s Committee on Highly Successful Schools or Programs for K-12 Education released their suggestions due to the growing number of jobs, both inside and outside of the scientific community, requiring knowledge in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.  The chair of the committee, Adam Gamoran, recently said, “the goal isn’t only to have a capable and competitive work force.  We need to help all students become scientifically literate because citizens are increasingly facing decisions related to science and technology – whether it’s understanding a medical diagnosis or weighing competing claims about the environment.” 

Although some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs involve science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) skills, the number of women and minorities in these fields is lagging significantly behind white males.

Virtual schools offer the promise of equalizing access to quality curriculum and  improving student oucomes.

Approximately half the electric utility sector workforce will retire in the next 10 years.  This will leave a shortage of experienced workers in every organizational facet, from linemen to power engineers, potentially affecting energy reliability.