ASPIRE INSTITUTE AT WHEELOCK COLLEGE RELEASES STRATEGIC REPORT –FOR STATE TO COMPETE GLOBALLY, STEM EDUCATION NEEDS TO START AS EARLY AS PRE-K
Teachers need more training to succeed
BOSTON, MA - Students need to begin training in the sciences and math as early as pre-kindergarten for optimal success, according to a report released today by Wheelock College’s Aspire Institute. The report, commissioned by the John Adams Innovation Institute of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, also advises that elementary school teachers receive specific training in science and math, and recommends the establishment of a Greater Boston STEM Educator Consortium to collaboratively pursue goals, practices and funding for preparing skilled PreK-6 STEM educators.
“There is no question that the global competitiveness of our Massachusetts innovation economy is dependent on a robust STEM education pipeline,” said Mitchell Adams, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
“This report’s recommendations, strategies, and expected outcomes, offer an actionable roadmap for improving STEM education in Massachusetts and enabling our students to adapt to the opportunities of the 21st century economy.”
In the spring of 2009, with funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Wheelock College Aspire Institute reached out to several Boston area higher education institutions and community partners to respond to the challenge of improving early STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. In all, 12 institutions responded and the Higher Education STEM Planning Project was launched. Led by Aspire Institute Director Jake Murray and STEM education consultant, member of the MA Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, and former school superintendent, Isa Zimmerman, the project’s purpose was to identify strategies for improving the STEM training of PreK-6 pre-service and in-service educators. The report represents the finding of the group. Five high-impact recommendations are offered to strengthening the preparation of PreK – 6 teachers in STEM education, and ultimately ensure that children receive a strong foundation in STEM areas early:
- Establish a Greater Boston STEM Educator Consortium to collaboratively pursue goals, practices and funding for preparing skilled PreK-6 STEM educators
- Elevate the focus on STEM education in PreK-6 teacher education programs
- Provide high quality in-service training to prepare ‘skilled’ PreK-6 STEM educators
- Collaborate with state agencies, school districts and early childhood education providers to strengthen STEM education requirements for PreK-6 educators and to elevate the focus on math and science instruction in PreK-6 education settings
- Strengthen STEM education training for community-based early childhood education providers and out-of-school-time providers.
“A central strategy proposed in this report is for area teacher education programs, state agencies, school districts, early childhood education providers, out-of-school-time providers and business and community partners to collaborate closely through a Greater Boston STEM Education Consortium,” said Wheelock College president Jackie Jenkins-Scott, “ On behalf of Wheelock College, I offer our full commitment to collaborate—or, in several cases, to continue to collaborate—with these key partners to form a consortium with the goal of greatly improving the STEM content knowledge and instructional skills of PreK-6 educators. “
Within the past year, national and local calls to strengthen STEM education have intensified. President Obama recently announced a $250 million initiative to train math and science teachers. The federal Race to the Top funding includes STEM as the only “content” area referred to as a “competitive preference priority.” In Massachusetts, Governor Patrick recently created the STEM Advisory Council to advise on STEM education issues.
"It is imperative that we continue to invest in STEM education in order to prepare our students for the jobs and careers of the future," said Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Governor's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Advisory Council. "This report lays out clear recommendations and action steps to promote education in these fields as early as pre-kindergarten and I look forward to including these ideas in our ongoing dialogue."
This mounting concern is warranted. US students consistently trail behind their peers in countries, such as China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia, England and the Netherlands in math and science academic performance. And while Massachusetts as a whole performed well above the national average in math and science on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it is among the states with largest achievement gap between different racial/ethnic and income-level student subgroups in these same areas. Further, the most recent MA Department of Higher Education and MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education School-to-College study reports that nearly 30% of Massachusetts high school graduates enrolling in state public colleges or universities as full-time, degree-seeking candidate were required to take at least one remedial mathematics course.
Thus, the imperative to improve STEM education is clear. However, while there have been several STEM education improvement initiatives in recent years, most of these efforts have focused on the middle school, secondary and post-secondary levels. There is growing consensus among educators that quality STEM education must begin earlier, in grades PreK-6, both to ensure foundation knowledge and skills and to foster long-term interest and higher-level study in these subject areas in the later grades.
As the Aspire report points out, to increase the quality of STEM teaching and learning in the early grades means confronting a significant human resource challenge: many PreK-6 teachers are not well prepared for this task, lacking both strong math and science content knowledge and instructional skill. The state received a stark indicator of this deficit last May (2009), when nearly three-quarters of prospective elementary school teachers completing the state's licensing exam (MTEL) failed the math test.
Increasing the numbers of PreK-6 educators with the ability to teach STEM subjects well will require sustained collaboration between teacher education programs, schools and other partners. No one teacher education program or community partner has the capacity to either provide the range of effective, innovative STEM coursework and professional development required across all grades and subjects, or to enroll, prepare and place the number of PreK-6 educators needed across the region over the next several years.
Aspire Institute Director Jake Murray said, “This report is only a start. The real, in-depth and challenging work of coordinating efforts and resources across institutions and developing high quality, accessible coursework and professional development must now begin.”
The report is available at http://www2.wheelock.edu/wheelock/x3146.xml
About The Aspire Institute at Wheelock College
Founded in 2007, the Aspire Institute has the mission to advance knowledge and innovative solutions in response to social and education challenges. Specifically, the Aspire Institute mobilizes the expertise of Wheelock College and community partners to promote effective social and education policy, practice and research in Massachusetts and across the country.
About Wheelock College
Founded in 1888 and located in Boston, Massachusetts, Wheelock College is a private institution with the public mission of improving the quality of life for children and their families. The College fulfills this mission by providing a strong education in the arts and sciences and in its professional fields – child and family studies, social work, and education — for which its undergraduate and graduate programs are nationally and internationally recognized. Through its academic programs and student experience, the College reflects the multicultural dimensions of the countries in which it operates and fosters diverse learning communities — all of which contribute to the success, leadership, and impact that its graduates enjoy in a wide variety of careers. For more information. visit www.wheelock.edu.
About the John Adams Innovation Institute / Massachusetts Technology Collaborative
The John Adams Innovation Institute is a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The Innovation Institute is the Commonwealth’s leading science, technology, and innovation policy agent which fosters the vitality and capacity for self-renewal of the Massachusetts Innovation Economy.
Working closely with academics, industry practitioners and government officials, region by region and sector by sector, the Innovation Institute’s mission is to enhance the capacity of the Massachusetts economy to sustain an ongoing flow of innovation which is crucial to create, attract, and grow companies in emerging and established industries.
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