U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said a new White House initiative to recognize and reward top Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) educators will bolster his own long-time efforts to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps and help prevent the best teachers from leaving the profession for more lucrative jobs.
Sen. Franken, who last year introduced and pushed legislation in the Senate to create a STEM Master Teacher Corps, said recruiting and training top-notch STEM educators is critical to the nation's future economic competitiveness due to the fact that nearly all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations require STEM skills. In Minnesota, 16 of the 20 fastest growing jobs require STEM training.
"We currently are falling behind in the industry areas that are most critical to the nation's economic future, like health care, energy, and national security," Sen. Franken said. "Each of these industries requires STEM education and this new White House initiative will give a much-needed boost to efforts to train STEM educators and ultimately prepare STEM students to compete in these fields. I introduced my STEM Master Teacher Corps bill last year because I've long believed that investing in the STEM fields drives innovation and improves our national competitiveness, and I'm glad to see that the Obama administration agrees."
Sen. Franken said that improving STEM education is critical because in 2009, American students placed 25th in math and 17th in science out of 34 developed countries and that while more than 50 percent of college students in China and Japan major in STEM fields, only 33 percent of U.S. students do.
Under the White House initiative, the President has proposed recruiting and training 100,000 new STEM teachers in the next decade. The effort would begin to address the fact that many STEM teachers leave teaching within a few years for better-paying jobs that use STEM skills. Providing career advancement opportunities to effective STEM teachers and support to beginning STEM teachers would increase the retention of these teachers so that investments in recruitment and training will have an even greater payoff.