Letter to the Editor: State Must Continue Funding for STEM

Letter featured in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Feb. 25, 2014 links investment in STEM education to state’s “Drive to 55” goals for workforce and economic development. Authors Susan M. Benner and Susan Riechert, co-directors of the Center for Enhancing Education in Mathematics and Sciences, University of Tennessee write,

Whether it is tapping the capacity of 3-D printing, creating nano-instruments, fighting infections and modern germs or perfecting reliable alternative energy sources, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are needed to solve problems and advance the quality of our lives.

To bring STEM learning alive in the classroom, STEM teachers must have a deep understanding of their field of interest and how that knowledge can be combined with other fields to solve real-world problems. They must also have a personal dedication and commitment to the students with whom they work. Finally, they will need an array of resources necessary to fulfilling the vision widely expressed for advancing STEM workforce development. Over the past two years the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and STEMspark, the East Tennessee STEM Hub, have been growing and building a network of resources across the state. Thousands of teachers have participated in countless hours of professional development and project development, strengthening their effectiveness in the classroom.

Gov. Bill Haslam outlined his vision for continued educational improvement in his recent State of the State address. His “Drive to 55” platform has five strategies: Get students ready — for post-secondary training. Get students in — to a post-secondary program. Get students out — complete post-secondary training. Finish — help adults complete unfinished credentials. Create alignment and accountability — align education with jobs.

Tennessee’s STEM Innovation Network and East Tennessee’s regional partnership, STEMspark, are working toward these same goals. STEM education builds the pipeline of skilled workers that Tennessee businesses need to expand. New businesses that want to locate in Tennessee require STEM-skilled workers. The STEM education network must continue to be funded by our state. The growth and success of our state’s economy depend on it.
© 2014 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online

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