The price…We are losing Inventors!

A teacher can make a huge impact in a student’s life. Teachers can inspire students to pursue their dreams, expose students to new interests and strengths and boost the student’s voice and power to be heard and seen. Students deserve well prepared teachers to help them thrive. 

Our current education system is not equipped to do that because the teacher shortage has limited its ability to act as an engine of change.

How bad is the problem? 

More than half of the school districts in the U.S. report that they struggle to recruit and retain qualified STEM teachers. What’s more the documented shortages only reflect vacant positions for courses that are offered. When a school knows that it will struggle to fill a STEM teacher position, it may not even offer that course. As a result, the teacher shortage contributes not only to the decline in the quality of STEM education, but also to the narrowing of STEM learning opportunities at a time when we need more students learning STEM as a path to higher education and careers in STEM fields.

We are losing inventors.

If we don’t produce the next generation of breakthrough discoveries and technologies, or a STEM workforce capable of doing so, we as a nation will be eclipsed by more ambitious countries. 

Why are we losing out on so many inventors? There are many reasons, but the biggest is that too many of our students don’t experience excellent STEM learning every year, preK-12. Statistics show that schools where most students qualify for a free lunch lack teaching resources for math and have fewer opportunities for hands on science. Only a quarter of high poverty high schools offer computer science classes, and only eight percent offer AP computer science.

If we’re going to solve the most pressing global issues including climate change, food shortages, cancer, Alzheimer’s, energy, water and more we need to tap into the full potential of our communities, regardless of zip code and the full breadth of the United States, female and male, urban and rural. Yet only a small fraction of our nation’s population has the opportunity to attain the necessary STEM skills, knowledge, and agency to help drive those solutions.

In a few years, there will be one million STEM jobs open in the United States that will go unfilled if we don’t close the STEM education gap. 

What Next?

We need to provide learning opportunities and support for teachers to build a new vision of their professional responsibilities.

A first step to progress can be achieved by recognizing the problem. This begins by understanding that the shortage is driven by several critical factors, including the teacher pay gap, stress and a scarcity of effective professional development, training and mentoring.

Professional development for STEM teachers should be analogous to professional development for other professionals. More importantly the best professional development is ongoing.

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