Guest Blog from Melissa Gregson of Teach For America: Preparing Our Students for Tomorrow Starts with stronger STEM education today
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on June 28, 2012
This is a post in the STEMconnector Guest Blog series featuring Melissa Gregson, Managing Director of STEM Initiatives at Teach for America.
STEM jobs have weathered our perilous economy better than any other. Today the number of open STEM roles outnumber the number of unemployed workers two to one.1 And yet over one- third of our young people report that they don’t know much about the STEM fields. That is why it is imperative that we give our youth the skills necessary to obtain STEM jobs for both their future success and our country’s.
This week, Teach For America will join 40 other STEM-focused organizations in Dallas for the STEM Solutions leadership summit. For three days, June 27-29, major corporations, leading educators, top policy makers and education technology companies will come together to focus on the urgent need to improve math and science education in America.
At Teach For America, we believe that this pressing issue needs to be addressed nowhere more urgently than in our highest needs schools. In America today, fourth graders growing up in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind their peers in high-income communities.2 About 50 percent of students in high poverty districts will not graduate from high school by the time they are 18 years old3 and only 1 in 11graduates from college by the time they are 24.4 According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 30 percent of eighth graders perform at or above proficient in science and only 26 percent do so in math.5 That number drops by more than half for minority students.
To close this unacceptable achievement gap and improve America’s global competitiveness, Teach For America has developed a targeted STEM Initiative to grow the pool of talented STEM teachers in low-incoming school. The initiative is focused on maximizing the effectiveness of these teachers by continuing to strengthen how we train and reparation and support continuum to increase the effectiveness of those teachers. In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 3,200 first– and second-year Teach For America teachers taught math and science, making Teach For America one of the largest providers of math and science teachers in the country. 6 In addition, roughly 2,000 Teach For America alumni continued to teach in STEM classrooms, including two 2012 nominees for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
If today’s students will be able to fully participate in the world of tomorrow, we must equip them with the skills they need to think critically and solve problems innovatively. Excellence in math and science education is critical not only to closing the achievement gap, but also to securing our country’s economic competitiveness. Teach For America is humbled and thrilled to be involved in this important work and looks forward to continuing this dialogue at the STEM Solutions leadership summit this week.
Melissa Gregson is the managing director of Teach For America’s STEM Initiative and was named one of STEMconnector’s 2012 100 Women Leaders in STEM. She is also an honoree of our 100 Women Leaders in STEM, which is having a launch reception tonight in the San Antonio Room at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit.