So, what can we do in our communities now to prepare for 2030?
Scaling STEMThankfully, there are many opportunities to bridge the gap. Throughout many public schools and districts, there are pockets of innovation occurring that have promise to scale. Forbesrecently profiled one such effort. Project Lead the Way is a national nonprofit that serves millions of kindergarten- through high school-age students. It is an in-school engineering, computer science and biomedical science program that uses project-based learning to engage students in STEM learning and complement the school’s core curriculum.
The Kansas City STEM Alliance manages Project Lead the Way, as well as serves as a coordinator for the more than 100 STEM-related organizations, in the Kansas City area. Created in 2011, the KC STEM Alliance was charged to address the emerging need for more students participating in STEM subjects.
Since 2011, through the administration of the KC STEM Alliance, Project Lead the Way enrollment in Kansas City has grown from 10,000 students to 73,000 students (see graph). In addition, the KC STEM Alliance expanded the other signature program it administers – FIRST Robotics – by focusing on students that have been traditionally underserved in robotics competitions. It worked aggressively to increase teams led by girls and students of color from 11 to 27, a significant increase in participation by these students.
More recently, the leadership of the KC STEM Alliance was recognized nationally as Executive Director Martha McCabe was recently invited by Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer to attend the first-of-its-kind State-Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education Summit hosted by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in Washington, D.C.
Supporting STEMBecause of it leadership and results in the STEM field, the Kauffman Foundation recently awarded a three-year $1.1 million grant to expand KC STEM Alliance programming to more students and schools as well as build its long-term financial stability.
To best support the needs of students and our communities, we must work at every level of government, short- to long-term, and engage the voices of those who are not often at the table in this discussion, including students, families, and educators.
We also must leverage every opportunity and program to support positive changes. Adapting a system of education to meet our nation’s long-term needs is complex and fraught with challenges, but through a combination of listening, learning, and working together, it can be done. Programs such as Project Lead the Way, KC STEM Alliance, and the hundreds of voices engaged in Rethink Education all point to the possibilities.
We can work together for a goal that by 2030 every student is prepared to meet the challenges of the economy and eliminate the projected gaps not only in Missouri, but also in our nation.