Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico's Third District recently introduced legislation to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The STEM Support for Teachers in Education and Mentoring Act, or STEM2 Act, identifies STEM skills needed by businesses and industry and supports curricula and teacher training and mentoring in order to improve student learning in STEM.
"In order for our children and young adults to compete in the global economy they must have the training and skills necessary to compete in the STEM fields," Congressman Luján said. "High-quality teachers and a rigorous curriculum that focus on the needs of employers hiring for the jobs of tomorrow is critical. With one-third of fourth graders and one-fifth of eighth graders struggling to perform basic math skills, we have no time to waste in improving the quality of education and ensuring that our children have a strong foundation in math and science."
Currently, students are lacking in the STEM skills that employers need. College programs preparing future teachers, current classroom teachers, curricular specialists and business leaders are often not coordinating to assure that students are learning what employers require. To address the lack of coordination among STEM efforts, the STEM2 Act will establish a planning grant program for states to identify future STEM skills needed. The program will also develop effective state STEM networks for communications and collaboration among teachers and administrators, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and businesses.
Middle school is an important time in students' development and fostering an interest in STEM possibilities. Strengthening the STEM teaching skills of middle and high school teachers will spark this interest. To strengthen the capacity of teachers and schools to prepare students for STEM careers, this bill also establishes a training grant program for summer institutes and other professional development enrichment programs that use best practice models for STEM master teachers and current teachers and administrators. In addition, the bill develops a national panel to evaluate and identify rigorous K-12 STEM curricula models.
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has introduced companion legislation in the Senate. The STEM2 Act is supported by Citizen Schools, the Association for Career and Technical Education, Innovate-Educate New Mexico, NMSU College of Education and the New Mexico Women's Center for Law and Poverty.