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Susan Skemp, President American Society of Mechanical Engineers International (ASME) INTRODUCTION Few issues evoke more passionate conversation than the education of children. While there has been much attention and debate over how to address school violence, drugs, and vouchers, there has been a tremen- dous lack of understanding and appreciation by many policymakers about the importance of strengthening scientific, mathematical, engineering, and technological (SMET) concepts and skills in the pre-college (K-12) educa- tion curriculum. As the economy becomes increasingly more global and technologically complex, it is essential that K-12 SMET education be strengthened to prepare today's students to be tomorrow's productive workers and citizens. In addition to creating a technologically literate citizenry, there is an urgent need to develop a technologically capable workforce that can com- pete in the global economy. Employers are increasingly concerned about the lack of technically skilled workers. Much more emphasis must be placed on pre-college SMET education if this skill deficit is to be over- come. Following a survey of its members, the American Society of Mechani- cal Engineers (ASME International), a professional society of more than 125,000 members, has included K-12 science, math, engineering, and tech- nology education among its priorities for action by public policy makers. The Society's Board on Pre-College Education (BPC) has developed a va- riety of activities and resources for its members, educators, and students interested in K-12 SMET studies (visit www.asme.org/educate/kl2~.
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PAN-~CANIZAHONAL SUMMIT RECOMMENDATIONS Parents, educators, governments at all levels, and the private sector have important roles in ensuring that future generations will possess the skills and critical competencies necessary to be successful in a highly com- petitive, global, and technologically sophisticated economy. Together, these stakeholders must work cooperatively to ensure that children re- ceive the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology training es- sential for future success. ASME International offers the following recommendations for im- proving K-12 SMET educational performance: · Increase federally funded research focused on SMET teaching and learning to cultivate the most effective teaching methods. · Recruit, train, and retain qualified SMET teachers to meet demand. · Foster partnerships among educational institutions, industry, and nonprofit organizations. · Encourage the adoption of curriculum standards that cultivate high student performance; the development of curricula that foster creativity, experiential problem solving, and critical thinking; and the development of assessments aligned with these standards and curricula. · Encourage women and minorities to pursue SMET coursework and careers. Increase federally funded research focused on SMET teaching and learning to cultivate the most effective teaching methods. Policymakers should dedicate significant funds for education research, with an empha- sis on how to improve teaching and learning of K-12 SMET concepts and critical thinking skills. New research must be supported and the findings applied to the development of curricula, materials, and standards. Re- search should focus on "how" (inquiry-based versus memorization) and "when" (at developmentally appropriate stages) students learn rather than on "what" students should learn in the areas of science, math, engi- neering, and technology. A long-term commitment to the application of these research results is necessary to bring about real systemic changes. Recruit, train, and retain qualified SMET teachers to meet demand. Experts agree that one key to improving student performance is the re- cruitment, training, and retention of qualified teachers. Recent studies suggest that, in the United States alone, 2.2 million new teachers will be needed in the next decade; yet statistics indicate that U.S. colleges of edu- cation will not produce nearly enough graduates with degrees in educa- tion to meet the expected demand. Furthermore, graduates with degrees
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N SOCILTY OF MECHANICAL FNGI~S INTERNAHONAL 49 in science, mathematics, or engineering are unlikely to pursue teaching careers. The lure of higher salaries in the private sector is further deplet- ing the supply of qualified K-12 science and mathematics teachers, while the pursuit of reduced class sizes and other demographic factors increase the demand for more qualified teachers. A related concern is the number of teachers who are currently teaching out of their respective fields of expertise. In 1998, 28 percent of seventh- and eighth-grade math teachers in the United States were not certified to teach that subject, and 27 percent of science teachers at those grade levels were not certified to teach science. Policy makers should enhance the recruitment, training, and retention of qualified SMET teachers by creating programs that · improve in-service professional development focusing on SMET curricula; · facilitate alternative certification and transition-to-teaching pro- grams for engineers and other technical professionals; · institute mentoring programs for SMET personnel in schools; · implement what is already known regarding how students learn in teacher professional development programs; · attract SMET teachers via scholarships, student loan forgiveness, bonuses, and tax incentives; · allow for differential pay scales to help attract and retain qualified SMET educators; and, · include /increase SMET coursework in pre-service /university teacher training. Foster partnerships among educational institutions, industry, and nonprofit organizations. ASME International and other organizations currently partner with nonprofit organizations and educational entities (e.g., FIRST Robotics Competition, the Junior Engineering Technical Soci- ety [JETS], and the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts) to further K-12 SMET learn- ing. Policymakers should support the development of partnerships among educational institutions, industry, and nonprofit organizations that · foster adopt-a-school programs; · create incentives for SMET professionals to work with teachers and students; · promote relevant corporate summer externships for teachers in SMET positions; i1999 State Indicators of Science and Mathematics Education published by the Council of State School Officers.
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PAN-~CANIZAHONAL SUMMIT · develop recognition awards for private sector SMET involvement; · produce, evaluate, and disseminate best practices in SMET pro- grams, on-line curricula, and funding opportunities to educators via a well-publicized, centralized Web site; · create and fund the publication and dissemination of materials for public outreach and parental education on the importance of a quality K- 12 SMET education; and · address school infrastructure needs for SMET education, including the implementation of current technology and provision of material re- sources. Encourage the adoption of curriculum standards that cultivate high student performance; the development of curricula that foster creativ- ity, experiential problem solving, and critical thinking; and the devel- opment of assessments aligned with these standards and curricula. Ex- perience has shown that lack of high standards for student performance results in poor mastery of SMET subject matter by many students. Devel- opment of effective SMET curriculum and assessment tools must be based on high standards of achievement. These standards should extend well beyond requiring knowledge of fundamental SMET facts, processes, and techniques. They should support curricula that cultivate creative, critical thinking skills and encourage interdisciplinary approaches to issues and problems. Policymakers and other stakeholders should · promote and endorse private sector standard-setting projects; · support the development of hands-on, open-ended problem-solv- ing curricula and modules of engineering problems, grouped by disci- pline and level of difficulty, for the K-12 classroom; · pursue the development of better assessment mechanisms aligned with state and local standards; · advocate the inclusion of both curriculum and assessment stan- dards in SMET by boards of education, where they are not currently adopted; and · resist the tendency to "push back" standards when assessment re- sults are less than satisfactory. Encourage women and minorities to pursue SMET coursework and careers. Remaining competitive in the global economy will require the cultivation of technological literacy, talent, and expertise across all sectors of society. Efforts should be made to attract greater participation of women and minorities into SMET fields of study and careers. Minorities
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N SOCILTY OF MECHANICAL FNGI~S INTERNAHONAL 5] and women are significantly underrepresented in the SMET workforce. Policymakers should · provide incentives and mentoring for women and minorities to pursue K-12 SMET teaching careers; · foster outreach and SMET career materials to K-12 guidance coun- selors, teachers, and parents; · support SMET magnet schools in school districts with large minor- ity enrollments; and · foster public-private partnerships to ensure those schools serving large minority enrollments have computer lab and other technologies to support the delivery of high-quality SMET education. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers is a nonprofit technical and educational organization with 125,000 members worldwide. The Society's members work in all sectors of the economy, including industry, education, and government.
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