Friday, July 29, 2016

The STEM Education Challenge

New, robust partnerships between the public and private sectors are needed today to attract and educate the young scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians for tomorrow.

A stem is the main trunk of a plant, and STEM — short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is the main trunk of our economy.

A plant that gets too little water will fail to grow. Unfortunately, that’s also what’s happening to STEM education in our country today.

We’re simply failing to attract and educate a sufficient number of young scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. Demand for these workers is growing fast, but our pool of talent isn’t.

The situation is especially perplexing, given that a career in STEM would seem to be highly attractive. Consider:

· Demand for STEM jobs is growing fast. Jobs across all occupations are forecast to increase by only 14 percent between 2010 and 2020. By contrast, jobs in biomedical engineering are expected to increase during that same period by 62 percent. In medical science, jobs are expected to grow during that period by 36 percent. And in systems software development, to grow by 32 percent.

· STEM jobs pay well. The average wage for all STEM occupations in the United States is $85,570. That’s nearly twice the average for all occupations.

· STEM is an equal-opportunity employer. Women with STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations. They also experience a smaller wage gap relative to men.

Despite these positive benefits, interest in STEM careers is limited. The U.S. government now expects that 2.4 million STEM jobs will remain unfilled by 2018. And only 16 percent of our high-school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career. As a result, the STEM job gap does not appear likely to be bridged anytime soon.

A for Effort

However, we can’t blame the STEM challenge on a lack of concern or effort. In fact, a myriad of schools, government bodies, corporations and non-profit organizations have been trying for years to close the STEM gap. They’ve conducted studies, awarded grants, held contests with valuable prizes, even run technology summer camps for inner-city kids. Yet despite all this well-meaning work -- not to mention the literally hundreds of millions of dollars these efforts have collectively cost -- the nation’s STEM gap is expected to be serious.

What’s wrong? We believe many of these efforts, while certainly well-intentioned, have missed the mark. For example, too many of our university business schools still teach the traditional subjects of accounting, finance and economics. Instead, they need to focus on STEM topics such as information technology, cybersecurity and analytics.

But that’s not all. We’re convinced that too much STEM emphasis has been placed on older university students. Instead, we need to capture the interest of students who are much younger --ideally, youngsters in elementary and middle schools. We also need more effective STEM programs that reach out directly to girls and members of minorities, both of whom are disproportionately underrepresented in technical and scientific job markets.

What’s Needed Now

So what’s the solution? We believe what’s needed is a much stronger alliance between our nation’s business leaders and its educators -- and not just at the university and college levels, but also in our K-12 schools.

To be sure, there have been some early and laudable efforts. For example:

· Intel has committed $300 million to STEM education. This supplier of microprocessors and other computing gear is focusing on K-12 and college classes in previously underserved regions.

· Microsoft is this summer offering free workshops at some of its retail stores. These programs, some of which are being offered to children as young as 8 years old, teach kids how to have fun writing software code.

But more is still needed. Otherwise, our schools will continue to operate in a vacuum, and the STEM gap will widen.

Industry executives, educators and philanthropists must solve this issue by working together. Companies need to get involved with their local schools, too. Masergy is helping to lead the way with a new scholarship program that will help students earn STEM-related degrees. Masergy engineers have also volunteered in Plano, TX area schools. With a challenge this big, this stubborn, and this important, we all need to do our part.


Parents Beat Back Obama’s Transgender Bathroom Mandate in Texas Schools

Administrators of a Texas school district changed guidelines for transgender students to involve parents and work with families on a case-by-case basis, after an uproar among parents.

The Fort Worth Independent School District announced the two new pages of guidelines dated July 19 after parents and others had a chance to speak at school board meetings, six public forums, and five meetings of a safety advisory panel, among others.

“The new guidelines place a heavy emphasis on involving parents and trusts students, teachers, and parents to work together to make the right decisions,” Superintendent Kent Scribner said in a prepared statement.

“We are grateful Superintendent Scribner reversed and repealed his illegal transgender directive,” a group of students, parents, and taxpayers called Stand for Fort Worth, said of the change.

The school district, comprised of 143 schools and 87,000 students, said it received comment from 235 individuals, including 119 separate emails.

“The new guidelines reflect what we’ve heard from students and teachers, parents, and pastors,” Scribner said. “Our focus from the beginning has been the safety of all children and that, overwhelmingly, was the concern we heard from our parents and others.”

The previous eight pages of guidelines, approved by Scribner in April, allowed students to use the male or female restroom of their choice and directed school personnel to address a student by the name or gender pronoun he or she prefers, even without permission from a parent or guardian.

“It’s not surprising to see concerned parents in Fort Worth … standing up to school bureaucrats to ensure the safety and privacy interests of their children.” —Roger Severino @Heritage

The Board of Education Trustees oversees the management and policymaking of the Fort Worth school district.

Scribner prepared the original guidelines, “completely done in secret,” and without “all the board members being aware of it, much less having parents having input on the process,” Julia Keyes, a Fort Worth resident and mother of five children, told The Daily Signal.

“It kind of came as a shock,”  Keyes said.

Keyes, a member of Stand for Fort Worth, said parents and others were “outraged” and sent over 2,000 emails to school board members  to hold the superintendent accountable.

“It was really the community that rose up,” Keyes said.

In May, the Obama administration issued a transgender student directive to schools around the nation, threatening to withhold federal funding if schools do not open up restrooms and shower facilities based on a student’s chosen gender identity.

Roger Severino, director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal:

Texas and 23 other states have already sued the administration over its lawless edict on school showers, bathrooms, and dorms. So it’s not surprising to see concerned parents in Fort Worth and around the country standing up to school bureaucrats to ensure the safety and privacy interests of their children.

“We feel good about the guidelines as they stand,” Keyes said. “However, trust has been broken with the superintendent.”

In an email to The Daily Signal, Matthew Kacsmaryk, deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, said Scribner’s original guidelines overrode rights guaranteed by the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution:

Like its federal counterpart, [Scribner’s directive] was replete with speech codes that violated the free speech clause, shower mandates that violated the free exercise clause, and parent blocks that violated the 14th Amendment rights of parents to the care, custody, and management of their children.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, called for Scribner’s resignation over his unilateral implementation of the original guidelines.

Kacsmaryk said the Fort Worth school district’s original directive “expressly discouraged use of binary terms like ‘boy’ and ‘girl’” and made “no reasonable accommodation for dissenting Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, and Protestants who adhere to the Book of Genesis and continue to believe that God ‘created them male and female.”

The First Liberty Institute lawyer, who consulted with Keyes and her husband before Scribner backed down, added:  

This is not diversity but displacement, the absolutist imposition of a sexually revolutionized view of the human person without any accommodation for religious dissenters who may have a different view of man and woman, male and female.

The group Stand for Fort Worth said it had “mobilized a bipartisan, multiracial coalition of students, taxpayers, and parents who were initially excluded from the process but whose voices have now been heard.”

The new guidelines say the school district will work with parents to create individual support plans for transgender students to address “the student’s unique needs.”

If the student requests access to an opposite-sex restroom, locker room, or related facility, the campus  administrator, the student and his or her parent or guardian, and guidance counselor will review the request on a case-by-case basis.

The goal will be to create a “safe and supportive environment for students impacted by the accommodation with due recognition of the privacy rights of all students,” the guidelines say.


UK: Stephen Kinnock accused of hiding daughter’s £29,000 a year private education

Labour's "red prince" Stephen Kinnock has been accused of hiding his daughter’s £29,000 a year private education during the selection process for his seat.

In 2014 Mr Kinnock, a Labour MP, told Wales Online that “it is highly misleading to say that our daughter attended a private school” in Denmark.

However it has since emerged that Johanna Kinnock attended Atlantic College in the Vale of Glamorgan, a private sixth form college in south Wales, between 2013 to 2015.

The son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, claimed that he was talking about his daughter's schooling in Denmark.

He insisted he has "always been open" about his daughter's education in Wales and said in a statement on his website that her time at Atlantic College was "partly funded by a standard Danish state scholarship for students studying abroad".

A blog, "Jac o' The North", has accused Mr Kinnock of failing to reveal in 2014 that his daughter was attending the school.

Mr Kinnock said he was responding at the time to questions about the school in Denmark.

He said: "Shortly before the late March 2014 hustings for the Aberavon Constituency Labour Party MP selection I was asked to clarify whether or not Johanna had attended a private school in Copenhagen.

"I explained that she had spent two years at IJS.  The author of this blog claims that the facts of the matter were somehow being concealed; they were not.

"I was being asked about, and responding to, questions about, the nature of Johanna's education in Denmark, and not about the nature of her education at [Atlantic College]."

A source close to the Aberavon selection contest told BBC Wales Mr Kinnock would not have won the selection if it had been known at the time that Johanna was being privately educated. He said: "It would have changed people's perception, it would have made the difference. There was only one vote in it."


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