What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. We focus on these areas together not only because the skills and knowledge in each discipline are essential for student success, but also because these fields are deeply intertwined in the real world and in how students learn most effectively. STEM is an interdisciplinary and applied approach that is coupled with hands-on, problem-based learning.
For the latest research on integrated STEM education, see the National Research Council report STEM Integration in K-12 Education.
Why is STEM So Important to California?
For decades, innovators and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley to San Diego and from Hollywood to the Central Valley have fueled California’s dynamic growth and established our state as a global hub for innovation. To maintain California’s position as a leading innovation-driven economy in the 21st century, our students must be equipped with the skills and experiences that will prepare them to be leaders in our state’s robust economy and diverse, complex society. Many of the world’s most innovative and valuable companies started and are located in California. At their core, these companies are world leaders due to their ability to harness science, technology, engineering and math to drive innovation.
While California has nearly 900,000 STEM jobs, accounting for more than 13% of the nation’s overall STEM-related workforce, the state has a crisis when it comes to preparing students in STEM subjects. Results from the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress place California among the lowest five performing states in math and science proficiency. Further, there are dramatic achievement and opportunity gaps between African-American and Latino students compared to their White and Asian-American counterparts, while girls and women remain underrepresented in most STEM academic fields and careers.
Simply put, our students are not graduating from public schools equipped and prepared to continue on to higher education STEM programs or to enter the STEM workforce. Currently, there are more job openings in STEM fields than qualified STEM job seekers. This gap must be closed if California is to retain its position as a world leader in STEM innovation, particularly in light of estimates that project the number of STEM jobs to grow by 19 percent over the next decade, nearly twice the rate of non-STEM jobs.
A STEM-literate student is not only an innovator and critical thinker, but is able to make meaningful connections between school, community, work and global issues. A STEM-literate high school graduate can enroll in a college-level course of study in science, technology, engineering, and math without the need for remediation. STEM skills are increasingly necessary to engage in a knowledge-based economy. There is solid evidence to suggest that the fastest-growing and highest-wage jobs in future years will be in STEM fields and all employees will need to utilize STEM skills for problem solving in a wide range of industries.