Welcome to my blog about issues and concerns to science educators and science education. At least once each month I will introduce a new topic that I hope will generate some discussion, and also respond to your ideas, comments, and suggestions.
I want to start with a new report that recently was released by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) titled Prepare and Inspire: K–12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for America’s Future. PCAST advises President Obama on key policy issues, so one might think there would be more attention to what the report had to say about improving K–12 STEM education. Only one outlet (Education Week) covered the report in any depth. I urge you to take a look at this report. One question on my mind is whether we are reaching the Sputnik moment in this country with the PCAST report, or is this just another report in a long line of reports destined for the shelf. Do you think this report is destined to the dusty bookcase, or will/can it change anything about science education?
There are two important ideas in this report that I hope will rise above the current din of efforts to improve science education. The first idea is captured by the word Inspire in the report’s title. It refers to the nature of science as being a discipline that helps the human spirit and mind expand through discovery and imagining “what could be” and “why.” I have to wonder, as science educators, have we lost our way from inspiring students about the potential science holds for creativity and discovery? Have we done this because of the push to prepare students for tests and to meet next year’s expectations, instead of helping students understand what science is capable of doing and how it helps us understand the world? Do you think we have lost the idea of wonderment in science?
The second idea that I think is of particular importance for science educators is the recommendation that states recognize and reward the top five percent of the nations STEM teachers by creating a STEM master teacher corps. We surveyed via NSTA Express and asked what you thought, and 64 percent of respondents agreed it was a good idea. Think of what a difference this would make in science education. If we use an estimate of 200,000 science educators, five percent would mean 10,000 experts, mentors, coaches, and resource people would be in schools and centers across the country supporting science education. They would be in represented in every congressional district (a political move in the report, but not a bad idea). I think this is an actionable recommendation. What do you think?
Rather than me going on about these ideas, let’s start a discussion—tell me what you think about the PCAST report and the three questions above.