We gathered online with scientists and engineers to discuss the impact of US students falling behind in math and science.
STEM professionals asked hard questions: Will the next generation lack critical thinking skills? How will we find fresh STEM talent? What jobs will our youths be qualified to do?
At EnCorps, we ask ourselves the same questions and consider the long term impact. We see three main consequences to not providing a high-quality STEM education:
- LACK OF SCIENCE LITERACY: Recent examples such as climate change deniers or COVID vaccine fears demonstrate how a lack of science literacy can create confusion and prevent us from collectively prioritizing finding a solution to significant issues. While not every student will become a scientist or engineer, we need future generations to have critical and analytical thinking skills in order to maneuver an increasingly complex world and for them to understand the importance of developing solutions to key issues.
- LIMITED POOL OF STEM PROFESSIONALS: Who will tackle future problems? Who will build upon the work you are doing today?
- HIRING for DIVERSITY: If we are serious about improving diversity in STEM fields, we need to focus on K-12 education. Otherwise, the field will continue to be led by predominantly white males and, as a result, a lack of representation will continue to exist in clinical trials, issues that affect marginalized communities won’t be prioritized and products, like the seatbelts we use everyday, will be designed for one particular body type.
There are many ways for scientists and engineers to share their expertise and problem-solving skills. To connect with students who are being failed by our public education: 14% of 8th graders who identify as Latinx/Hispanic and only 9% of those who identify as Black/African American are proficient in math at the end of middle school.
STEM professionals can be part of the solution. EnCorps offers two options:
- Share your passion and expertise by exploring becoming a STEM teacher. The key component of the program, a 10 week guest teaching opportunity, has tremendous impact: 90% of students who had an EnCorps Fellow as a guest teacher showed increased excitement in STEM.
- If a career-change is not for you, volunteer to tutor math online to middle school students in under-resourced communities. The commitment is minimal—1 hr, 2x/week-– the impact is huge: 84% of students in the program improved their math skills (2022-23 academic year)