The Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), today held a hearing to review the state of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in America. Members discussed the need to reevaluate the federal government's STEM investment to ensure it is helping students compete for jobs in these high-demand fields.
In his opening remarks, Rep. Rokita noted that although the number of high-paying STEM jobs has grown rapidly in the last decade, "the supply of workers with the skills needed to fill these in-demand positions has fallen short."
Worse, Rep. Rokita noted, "The federal government has taken an active role in improving STEM education, but recent reports have shown that taxpayers' multi-billion dollar investments are failing to produce the results that were expected."
As a result, many believe the United States will be at a competitive disadvantage if students don't have the skills to fill the 9.2 million STEM jobs expected in the next ten years.
"There is a widespread concern that our nation's preeminence in science and innovation is eroding," said Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director of the Museum of Science, Boston. "Only 5 percent of U.S. college graduates major in engineering, compared with 12 percent of European students and 20 percent of those in Asia."
Mr. Bill Kurtz, CEO of DSST Public Schools, a network of charter schools in Denver, Colorado, said, "Preparing our nation's students for our highest-need, hardest-to-fill jobs is one of the most important tasks of our public education system. Today, we are not providing our students from low-income families with access to the highest-quality STEM education and the preparation needed to enter critical fields like engineering, computer science and bioscience."
In Fiscal Year 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that of the 209 STEM programs administered across 13 different federal agencies, eighty-three percent overlapped to some degree with at least one other program.
GAO Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues George Scott said, "We found that most agencies did not use STEM performance measures in a way that is clearly reflected in their agency performance plans. Also, the majority of programs had not conducted comprehensive evaluations since 2005 to determine their effectiveness."
Moving forward, Mr. Scott stated, "It is imperative that the administration develop a strategic plan that aligns agencies' efforts to achieve government-wide goals, enhances the ability to determine program effectiveness and concentrates resources on those programs that advance the strategy in a cost-effective manner. Without these actions, federal agencies may spend funds in an inefficient and ineffective manner that ultimately may hinder efforts to improve STEM education."
The GAO's findings highlight the need to review current initiatives in order to strengthen our STEM education efforts. "Before we jump to simply create new federal initiatives, we must first evaluate our existing STEM education programs," Rep. Rokita concluded. "In order for the United States to continue to be a global leader, we must find better ways to help our children pursue the jobs of the future."