Delaware STEM Council Releases First Annual Report
(Wilmington, Del.) – Amid the hydroponic soil-less plants that adorn the walls of the state-of-the-art laboratory at the P.S. duPont Middle School, the Delaware STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Council today released a comprehensive report detailing the state of STEM Education in Delaware: its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement.
Created by Governor Jack Markell in 2011, the Delaware STEM Council is comprised of 26 appointed members from every corner of the State — a combination of educators, school administrators, business leaders, government officials, and students. Judson Wagner, STEM Coordinator for the Brandywine School District, and former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman, himself an engineer, serve as Co-Chairs of the Council.
“It is critical to our national and economic interest that we own STEM innovation in the future as thoroughly as we owned mechanical innovation in the past,” said Governor Markell. “It’s our obligation to Delaware’s future leaders that we equip them with the tools, networks and opportunities that STEM can offer them to ensure their – and our state’s – strongest future.”
“In releasing this report today, we take a clear-eyed look at STEM education in our public schools and we set out an aggressive agenda for improving it,” said Senator Kaufman, Co-Chair of the STEM Council. “You don’t need a crystal ball to see what the future holds – though not all our students will pursue a STEM career, the vast majority of them will absolutely need some STEM skills to compete. Our ultimate goal is to create a seamless Pre-K-through-higher education STEM system so that our students have every opportunity to succeed, and provide the workforce to attract STEM businesses to Delaware.”
The work of the Council is divided among six committees with specific areas of concern, specified in the Governor’s executive order. They are: Advisory; Public Education; Women and Minorities; Higher Education; Business Collaboration and Communication; and Program Evaluation and Monitoring. The 20-page report released today details the challenges facing Delaware schools and is broken down by three separate parts the Council believes are critical to a thriving STEM system: PK-12 Education; Higher Education; and the Business Community.
A highlight of the report follows. For the full text of the annual report and individual committee reports, go to www.stem.delaware.gov.
Over the course of the last year, the Council found that there are numerous efforts to provide quality STEM opportunities for students in Delaware. Those efforts, however, vary across the state, and are not fully vertically integrated to assure that the needs of the workforce are communicated to higher education and the PK-12 system.
National projections show that STEM occupations will represent the greatest growth in the next decade. We must provide the foundational skills necessary to prepare students for the rigors of basic high school and college level coursework.
- In Delaware, 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) results show that 8th graders ranked 31st in the country with only 34% scoring proficient or higher in math, and 4th graders ranked 29th in the country with 39% scoring proficient or higher.
- Delaware’s participation rate in STEM-related AP exams is low, with one AP exam taken for every 73 Delaware public school students, compared to the region’s leader, Maryland, with one AP exam taken for every 43 Maryland public school students, a difference of 69%.
- While the overall AP STEM passage rate in Delaware is 42%, the passage rates for female students is slightly lower at 40%, and that of African American students is far lower, at 19%, representing the lowest rates in the region.
- Low AP STEM exam rates translate into high rates of attrition of STEM majors in college, including Delaware’s Institutes of Higher Education.
- Delaware lacks content-trained STEM teachers, particularly in engineering and technology education. The teacher pipeline necessary to prepare and support students through a STEM focused education has not yet been fully developed.
The recommendations of the Delaware STEM Council serve to address many of the aforementioned areas of weakness and build upon many of the positive aspects of our current educational system and business climate. (For a more comprehensive list and more detailed explanations, go to www.stem.delaware.gov)
The Council proposes to:
- Develop an independent Delaware STEM Business Network to improve communication between the state’s STEM business leaders and educators. The Network will also consider how private sector entities may assist in the PK-12 system. Based on other states’ experiences, the Business Network will consider initiatives such as connecting STEM professionals to schools that seek speakers or co-teachers, and offering internship opportunities to students and teachers.
- Develop a STEM website, www.stem.delaware.gov that will provide STEM-related information to assist schools, districts, and others who wish to learn about or become involved with STEM opportunities. The website will eventually provide a clearinghouse of information regarding STEM programs, evaluation tools, events, funding opportunities, and other information.
- Establish a STEM grants and awards program. The program will recognize outstanding work by STEM mentors and business supporters and will raise funds for Delaware STEM programs.
- Identify a STEM contact within each district and charter school to disseminate information regarding STEM funding opportunities, professional development opportunities, and other STEM initiatives. Convene quarterly roundtable discussions with the district and charter contacts to provide important opportunities to begin regular dialogue and sharing of information and best practices.
- Create and update an inventory of STEM programs that occur both within and outside of classroom hours.
- Establish a cadre of women and minority STEM mentors for students beginning at the elementary level.
- Conduct an in-depth review of PK-12 STEM course offerings to identify areas lacking in STEM opportunities. The Council completed an initial survey of STEM courses, pathways, and programs, and will be issuing a more detailed follow-up survey.
- Call for the creation of a STEM coordinator at Department of Education that would coordinate STEM work statewide and provide a common contact for districts and charter schools to aid program development.
- Establish basic standards that a student must meet in order to succeed in a STEM major in one of Delaware’s colleges or universities. Once the requirements have been established, the coursework will be back-mapped through the PK-12 system.
- Work with the higher education institutions to establish mentoring and/or internship opportunities for their students.
“Our guiding principle is simple: A solid STEM foundation in primary and secondary schools, coupled with stellar higher education STEM integration, greatly increases one’s chances of obtaining and maintaining a satisfying and high paying STEM career,” said Judson Wagner, STEM Council Co-Chair. “Though clearly we have a ways to go, we are well-positioned to become a leader in STEM education which will, in turn, attract dynamic and growing businesses to Delaware. We stand ready to face the challenges.”