STEM education will carry our children in tomorrow’s economy

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In October 1957, after Sputnik flew, Mrs. Kennedy sat down with one of her 6th graders after school and told that boy he would go to college and study math and science. 

She said he would do research, become a professor, and train his own students. Neither of his parents had attended college. And yet, that’s exactly what he did. Since then, it never occurred to him to do anything else.

This story of one teacher’s impact is powerful, and there are literally millions like it all around our country.

{mosads}That student was David Evans, and today, through David’s work with the National Science Teachers Association, and Talia Milgrom-Elcott’s work with 100Kin10, we represent networks that support tens of thousands of teachers like Kennedy across the country. We have never seen kids face the challenges they do today. It used to be that American graduates were just competing with the kids who lived down the street. Then with other college applicants.


Now it’s the entire world competing for the same jobs, the same resources, the same opportunities. It’s no longer about passing algebra; it’s about thriving in an increasingly worldwide workforce.

American students should be able to compete with kids from anywhere in the world, because when they graduate from high school, technical school, or college, that’s who they’ll be measured against.

In this global economy, one of the most effective ways to set our children up for success is to ensure they receive excellent STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

As you may have heard, there are a lot of jobs to be found in STEM fields: indeed, ten of the top 14 fastest-growing industries require STEM training. But STEM is more than a specific set of classes or subjects.

STEM education teaches kids how to think critically and solve problems: valuable skills they’ll need to succeed in school, work, and life. Teenagers taking algebra need to understand why it matters and how they might use it in real life.

Whatever today’s kids want to be able to do tomorrow, they will need serious STEM skills – and the ability to use what they’ve learned when solving new problems or tackling new dilemmas. That will be true whether they become a mechanic called in to fix something they’ve never seen before, or a medical professional faced with an outbreak of a new disease.

Fortunately, we have a powerful opportunity to strengthen STEM education for all American students through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

ESSA, passed with strong bipartisan support, provides states with the flexibility to set new policy and funding priorities, and as part of the ESSA framework, states must develop their own education plans. The key to help develop and nurture a new generation of thinkers and creators depends on these state plans supporting and promoting STEM education.

As leaders of two national efforts focused on recruiting, training and supporting STEM teachers, as well as fostering excellence in STEM education, we hear firsthand from our partners and allies across the country about the exciting innovations to champion STEM education in the classroom: including supporting teachers to incorporate STEM labs into their classrooms, create digital learning communities to connect their students with practicing scientists or engineers, or implement new courses in computer science and engineering.

We need these kinds of initiatives in every state. We must continue to encourage and foster expanded support and opportunities for STEM education.

We are working alongside nearly 20 additional 100Kin10 partner organizations to ensure that all students receive outstanding STEM educations. We’re calling it Every Student Succeeds with STEM, and it offers resources and tools to learn more about ESSA and how to promote STEM learning to your state leaders. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a citizen who wants to make sure America will be leading the way on discovering new cures and creating new jobs, we’ve made it easy for you to help. If you live in a state that’s already offering robust support for STEM initiatives, let your state officials know to keep up the good work.

But if your state needs to be doing more – the time to advocate for STEM education is now: whether that means contacting your governor or chief state school officer, spreading the word on social media, or submitting a comment on your state’s draft plan. In addition to working with your state on its ESSA plan, tell your representatives in Congress to fully fund ESSA to be sure there are resources to implement it.

Education should be about helping our kids acquire the skills they’ll need to live successful, productive, and satisfying lives. In a rapidly changing world, where it’s difficult to predict what challenges and technologies lie ahead, it is more important than ever that kids learn to think carefully, critically, and creatively. 

We must do everything we can to prepare our children to meet this uncertain future. Securing robust STEM support in every ESSA state plan is an important path forward — because advocating for high quality STEM education is crucial to safeguarding the future of every child.

David Evans, Ex. Dir. of the National Science Teachers Association. Talia Milgrom-Elcott, executive director of the STEM teacher training initiative 100Kin10, which trains and supports STEM education teachers.   

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


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