Aurora University programs helping close STEM gap

STEM Inforgraphic

(Click to view complete STEM Infographic)

Stimulating STEM

Careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are expected to be some of the highest-paying and most advanced in the near future. And unfortunately, few American graduates are filling these positions.

Students across the country are under-performing in STEM subjects and many educational insiders pin the blame on the shortage of qualified teachers. In fact, the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century reports that 25 percent of high school mathematics teachers and 20 percent of high school science teachers do not have the academic credentials or background necessary to teach these subjects.

For more than 100 years, Aurora University has continually transformed its programs and offerings to meet the needs of the nation and the communities it serves. Today, that takes the form of a growing commitment to STEM education. To address the need for more focused and robust instruction at the collegiate level, Aurora University recently launched online graduate-level programs specifically focusing on STEM academics. The Master of Arts STEM programs are the first of their sort, designed specifically with teachers in mind. They focus on providing teachers with knowledge in the content area as well as instruction on how to teach it.

STEM in the U.S.

When it comes to STEM in the classroom, the United States is far behind its global competitors. Compared to other countries around the world, according to the World Economic Forum, the United States ranks 28th in educational system quality, 38th in primary education quality, and 47th in math and science education quality.

Data shows that the percentages of U.S. students who perform at or above the “basic” level of science comprehension decreases as students grow older. Only 72 percent of fourth-grade students score at or above basic science comprehension. That number drops to 63 percent for U.S. eighth-graders and to 60 percent for high school seniors. Even more shocking, only 26 percent of American high school seniors are considered proficient in math.

At Aurora University, our online master’s programs are designed specifically to help current teachers meet the instructional needs in the STEM space. Curriculum is based on national education standards and prepares teachers to implement STEM programs in their own classroom.

From the Classroom to the Workforce

More than 70 percent of future STEM jobs will be in computing. However, only nine states count computer science as a “core” high school graduation requirement. Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, Rhode Island and New York count computer science as a core math credit, and Georgia considers the course a science credit.

STEM occupations are some of the fastest-growing markets in the economy. Unfortunately, U.S. schools have a shortage of STEM talent, which leaves a large gap for future positions. In fact, nearly 3.7 million U.S. jobs in STEM fields are unfilled. Still, science and engineering jobs are on the rise. In 2012, the U.S. had 7.4 million available jobs in STEM fields. This number is projected to rise by 1.2 million to 8.6 million available STEM jobs in 2018. By that time, 92 percent of traditional STEM jobs will require postsecondary education and training.

Continued STEM Education

Students need early STEM education to succeed in or even develop an interest in STEM majors and careers. However, 78 percent of American high school graduates do not meet the standard levels for at least one entry-level STEM college course. Nearly 60 percent of American students who begin high school with an interest in STEM fields change their minds by graduation. Many students comment on how stagnant STEM classes feel in high school compared to grade school. But a STEM education can lead to fun jobs, such as an ESPN statistician, NASA Curiosity driver, EA environmental scanner, Spotify machine learning engineer, Legoland designer or Tumblr product manager.

Of the U.S. students graduating college with bachelor’s degrees, only 19 percent graduate with majors in STEM-related fields. And only 10 percent of graduates work in STEM-based occupations following college, with only eight percent work in STEM-related positions 10 years after graduating.

Aware of the issue, President Obama has said he wants 100,000 excellent STEM teachers trained in the next decade and has proposed new budgetary items, including $80 million for STEM teacher and leader training and a $190 million presidential teaching fellows program.

Teachers help spark a child’s initial passion for math and science by sharing their excitement for the subject in the classroom. However, understanding and implementing effective pedagogy can sometimes fall flat for teachers who aren’t prepared for instruction. With increased student and teacher efforts, exemplary, state-educated graduates could fill future positions.

Aurora University’s rigorous programs, offered on the Aurora, Ill. campus and online, will help certify teachers in mathematics, science or both. The courses are uniquely designed for adult learners and seamlessly combine content with pedagogy, allowing participants to learn new strategies to work with students in the classroom.

Programs include:

Aurora University also has plans to open the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School on its main campus in Aurora. Ill. The school will serve children in grades three through eight from the Aurora East, Aurora West, Indian Prairie and Oswego school districts. Teachers from these partner districts will staff the school as part of a professional development strategy that allows them to complete their graduate coursework in STEM fields.