***Coming This November: US Black Engineer magazine's 2008 Diversity edition will spotlight the careers of some of the most prominent blacks in Information Technology in Q&A profiles.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Raising STEM Achievement … It Takes a Village

US Black Engineer--If it takes a village to raise a child, it’ll take collaborators to raise Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) achievement in the United States. That was the theme of a July 22nd congressional hearing that examined how business-education partnerships can help drive innovation and strengthen STEM education.

Another message was that US corporations, organizations and the federal government must become more engaged.

“It is clear that if we are going to have a constant flow of talent in science and engineering, we need to raise the standards and expectations for what knowledge and skills students need to acquire earlier in the K-12 pipeline,” offered IBM Education Solutions Executive Patricia Sullivan in her testimony.

Melendy Lovett, Texas Instruments president for Education Technology, gave a similar assessment. “We need to address student interest and skills in STEM at all stages of the pipeline, from K-12 through university and graduate-level. Strong math skills are a gating factor for majoring in science or engineering,” Lovett said.

Both Sullivan and Lovett outlined business partnership programs at their respective companies —such as IBM’s Transition to Teaching
program launched in 2006 to train K-12 educators as a way of nurturing the STEM pipeline and TI’s MATHCOUNTS competition that gives seventh and eighth grade “mathletes” the opportunity to race against the clock to solve challenging mathematics problems. Both companies also donate millions of dollars annually in direct contributions and personnel resources.

The hearing was the second look at the findings and recommendations of the National Math Panel. The report concluded that the nation’s system for teaching math “must be fixed” if the United States wants to keep its competitive edge.

One STEM advocate also added, “This truly is a “Paul Revere” moment for our country. – we must spread the alarm that our country is falling behind in math and science achievement and we must shore up our system.”

As an observer of the comparatively woeful numbers of black and Hispanic students taking up STEM fields, I agree wholeheartedly.--M.V. Greene