Executive Order No. 81 signed by Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad on May 15, 2013, declared that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education should be strengthened as part of providing a world-class education, encouraging innovation and enhancing economic development in Iowa. The STEM Advisory Council’s top priorities are to increase student interest and achievement in STEM in order to be prepared for post-secondary study and STEM careers that await them here in Iowa.
Wrapping up the first implementation year of council programming, outcomes and indicators suggest a strong start, with plenty of work yet to do. Assessment of STEM Council programs is a collaborative effort of evaluation centers at Iowa’s three public universities – the Center for Social and Behavioral Research (CSBR) at the University of Northern Iowa, the Research Institute for Studies in Education (RISE) at Iowa State University, and Iowa Testing Program (ITP) at the University of Iowa. The collaborative issued their first year report Iowa STEM Monitoring Project 2012-2013 summary report at the biannual meeting of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council Aug. 15. The report is publicly available at www.IowaSTEM.gov.
Major findings of the first-year assessment are:
• All 12 of the 2012-13 exemplary programs scaled up across Iowa through the new STEM Network were found to increase student interest (89 percent of students reported more interest in at least one STEM subject after having participated).
• A steady decline is observed in the interest of Iowa youths in general when it comes to STEM topics and STEM careers, from elementary to middle school to high school.
• Ninety-four percent of surveyed Iowans believe that science and technology are making our lives better.
• The Iowa Assessment mathematics and science scores of participants in STEM Council programs were considerably stronger than the scores of young Iowans in general (an encouraging association though evaluators point out insufficient information to conclude causation).
“The fine work of the assessment team boosts the morale of the hundreds of professionals across the state who are working hard to implement the council’s vision,” said the council’s co-chairperson Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, “while at the same time we’re reminded of the haves and have nots in Iowa when it comes to STEM who we owe our very best effort moving forward.”
A disparity was revealed among parents when it comes to beliefs that their children are “very well prepared” in STEM subjects at school – 37 percent of rural versus 62 percent of urban parents felt so. One of the key considerations in rolling out exemplary STEM programs last year to almost 900 Iowa educators and 38,000 learners was to target regions of the state with the highest need.
“The demand for STEM programs from Southwest Iowa educators, formal and informal, speaks measures regarding the eagerness and necessity for quality hands-on, real-world programs to engage our youth,” said Southwest Regional STEM Manager Beth Kulow. “Rural students are exposed to STEM in their daily routines, now they are becoming more aware of the way to apply their education to those daily routines.”
Council co-Chairperson Mary Andringa, president and CEO of Vermeer Corporation, sees great value in the assessment document.
“STEM is a national imperative in this era of globally competitive markets, and Iowa is really well-positioned to lead by example,” Andringa said. “Data-driven decision making informed by objective measures will keep us on the front edge.”
The 2012-13 Iowa STEM Monitoring Project Summary Report is available at http://www.iowastem.gov/sites/default/files/stem_monitoring_report_final8-13-13.pdf
STEM programming for FY2014 is already underway with nine competitively selected exemplary programs being supported in some 3,800 clubs and classrooms reaching almost 100,000 Iowa youths through the council’s network. To learn more about STEM education in Iowa, contact the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council administration office or visit www.IowaSTEM.gov.