California is in a prime position for enhancing science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) education, and the state needs to do so in order to maintain its leadership in high-tech innovation, according to a report released on June 30 by State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, INNOVATE: A Blueprint for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics in California Public Education.
“California is in a new era of education where getting students ready for college and career means acknowledging the needs of tomorrow’s workforce,” Torlakson said. “The new Blueprint for STEM will help us chart that course for the future and meet that demand.”
The STEM Task Force was charged by Torlakson and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla with drafting a new vision and direction for STEM education in the state. CCST Executive Director Susan Hackwood co-chaired the task force, along with Herb Brunkhorst, Former Chair of the Department of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education at CSU San Bernardino. Cal TAC alums Lewis Chappelear, engineering teacher at James Monroe High School, and Suzanne Nakashima, science teacher at Lincrest Elementary School in Yuba City, also served on the task force.
“CCST and the California Teacher Advisory Council [Cal TAC] have focused on the importance of STEM education for many years,” said Hackwood. “We know that the state’s educational system is currently in a state of transition offering significant opportunities for positive changes in STEM education.”
The transitions currently underway in California include the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the forthcoming implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, the transition to a new student assessment system aligned with the modified content standards, the new Career Technical Education standards, and the innovation made possible through the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula.
The value of STEM education extends beyond scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians (who are essential contributors to the state’s economic strength). STEM teaches and trains students to engage in critical thinking, inquiry, problem solving, and collaboration, which are a valuable skill set in an increasingly complex technological society.
Hackwood noted that the task force report offers seven strategic action areas, which align closely with initiatives pursued by Cal TAC, including a focus on professional learning, quality STEM educational materials and resources, and ensuring access to digital resources for all teachers.
“Education systems are often slow to change,” said Hackwood. “However, we would add that all the transitions noted in the blueprint are deeply affected by the rapidly emerging advances in digital media, social networking, and big data. Importantly, these are all areas that are at the heart of new opportunities for California. CCST’s Cal TAC through its strategic partnerships with other STEM Education leaders including the California Department of Education and the legislature will continue its efforts to advocate for more and better STEM learning opportunities for students. It’s an organization well suited to contributing to the Blueprint for STEM in California Public Education movement throughout the state.”