STEM participants create action plan

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New Mexico students lag significantly in most measures of K-12 academic success, especially in math and science. For this reason, statewide citizens came together to develop a STEM Education Action Plan that will help ensure important STEM education goals are achieved for New Mexico students and teachers.

The event last week brought together more than100 participant students, Pre-K-20 educators, stem advocates, industry professionals, state agency education professionals and elected officials to develop an action plan that will address reforms in science, technology, engineering and math education in New Mexico.

The action plan called for more teacher professional development, college recruitment and retention and improved and more significant classroom experiences in both K-12 and college.

Participants expressed the need for more effective professional development. Ideas include better and more professional development resources, more collaboration among teachers, faculty from institutions of higher education and representatives from STEM industries and creating a longterm plan for professional development.  

Kristin Umland, co-chair, New Mexico Partnership for Math and Science Education said, “Professional development for STEM teachers needs to be career-long as it is with other professions such as law and medicine. Teaching New Mexico’s diverse student population is complex and it requires years to become a truly expert teacher.”

Participants also noted that students in K-12 need to have a better classroom experience. Action items include a plan to ensure students excel in rigorous math and science classes, an inquiry-based curriculum plan, a requirement that schools create a STEM focused curriculum plan in coordination with the New Mexico Public Education Department and a requirement that elementary schools teach more science.  

Additionally, participants focused on college recruitment and retention. In order to retain students, they must first be recruited. Action items suggested that there needs to be more research opportunities, inquiry based learning and student/teacher activities. Participants focused heavily on recruitment and retention because the STEM industry struggles to fill available STEM jobs.  

Kurt Steinhaus, director of Community Programs, Los Alamos National Laboratory said, “There are many STEM related jobs in New Mexico that are not being filled. Part of the problem is student retention. New Mexico must produce more STEM graduates in order to compete in a global economy. It is critical for New Mexico’s economy to thrive.”