Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Education
Increasing Access to High-Quality Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education
Section 1. Policy. A key priority of my Administration is to better equip America’s young people with the relevant knowledge and skills that will enable them to secure high‑paying, stable jobs throughout their careers. With the growing role of technology in driving the American economy, many jobs increasingly require skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) — including, in particular, Computer Science. These skills open the door to jobs, strengthening the backbone of American ingenuity, driving solutions to complex problems across industries, and improving lives around the world. As part of my Administration’s commitment to supporting American workers and increasing economic growth and prosperity, it is critical that we educate and train our future workforce to compete and excel in lucrative and important STEM fields.
Today, too many of our Nation’s K-12 and post-secondary students lack access to high-quality STEM education, and thus are at risk of being shut out from some of the most attractive job options in the growing United States economy. Courses in Computer Science are especially scarce in too many schools and communities, despite the job opportunities that these skills create. Nearly 40 percent of high schools do not offer physics and 60 percent of high schools do not offer computer programming. Of the nearly 17,000 high schools that were accredited to offer Advanced Placement exams in 2015, only 18 percent were accredited to teach Advanced Placement Computer Science (AP-CS). Minorities and students in rural communities often have even less access to Computer Science education. Nationwide, only 34 percent of African American students and 30 percent of rural high school students have access to a Computer Science class. Furthermore, even where classes are offered, there is a serious gender gap: less than a quarter of the students who took the AP-CS A exam nationally in 2016 were girls.
Shortages in high-quality STEM teachers at all levels, particularly in Computer Science, often drive these problems. The Department of Education, therefore, should prioritize helping districts recruit and train teachers capable of providing students with a rigorous education in STEM fields, focusing in particular on Computer Science. This will help equip students with the skills needed to obtain certifications and advanced degrees that ultimately lead to jobs in STEM fields.
Sec. 2. Expanding Access to Computer Science and STEM Education. (a) Establish promotion of high-quality STEM education, with a particular focus on Computer Science, as a Department of Education priority. The Secretary of Education (Secretary) shall, consistent with law, establish the promotion of high-quality STEM education, including Computer Science in particular, as one of the priorities of the Department of Education. The Secretary shall take this priority into account, to the extent permitted by law, when awarding grant funds in fiscal year 2018 and in future years.
(b) Funding level. The Secretary shall, to the extent consistent with law, establish a goal of devoting at least $200 million in grant funds per year to the promotion of high‑quality STEM education, including Computer Science in particular. Within 30 days of the Congress passing final appropriations for each fiscal year for which the priority established under subsection (a) of this section is in effect, the Secretary shall identify the grant programs to which the STEM priority will apply and estimate the total amount of such grant funds that will support high‑quality STEM education, including Computer Science. The Secretary shall communicate plans for achieving this goal to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB Director) each fiscal year.
(c) Explore administrative actions to promote Computer Science at the Department of Education. The Secretary shall explore appropriate administrative actions, to the extent consistent with law, to add or increase focus on Computer Science in existing K-12 and post-secondary programs. As part of this effort, the Secretary shall identify and take action to provide guidance documents and other technical assistance that could support high‑quality Computer Science education.
STEM and similar programs have been around for quite a while but in small ways. Unfortunately up until now we have not pushed hard across all states to help educate children in mathematics, science, and computer skills. With the memorandum President Trump has emphasized it as a priority of DoE.
National Girls Collaborative Project has a website with information HERE.
- K-12 Education – Female students’ achievement in mathematics and science is on par with their male peers and female students participate in high level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male peers, with the exception of computer science and engineering (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016).
- Higher Education – The rates of science and engineering course taking for girls/women shift at the undergraduate level and gender disparities begin to emerge, especially for minority women (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016).
- STEM Workforce – Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016).
Obama to his credit also encouraged the expansion of what had evolved into the present program of STEM. However, this did not happen in the years since 2009 but actually began well before that. VTech Works carries information from Dr. Sanders and Dr. La Porte covering much of this topic. In the 1950-1960’s schools began to realize that the typical classrooms were soon going to have to undergo quite a change as NASA and computers burst on the scene. Everything from science to engineering skills took on a greater meaning in light of all the advances that were being predicted for future generations. By the 1970’s alarms were beginning to sound that more in-depth maths and sciences needed to reach at a minimum the juniors and seniors in high school. In the 1990’s I took part in a state LASIP science initiative program to spark elementary students interest in the expanding field of science, mathematics, language integrations, and technology.
Since then on a yearly basis efforts have been made to advance this program. Still though there are tremendous gaps between male and female interests in these areas. Multi-million dollar initiatives by both the public and the private sectors have failed to close gender and racial gaps in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to the second-annual U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index of 2016.
Well done. Gender isn’t just about body. The mind and personal interests also have a part in what people are drawn to. I have a college friend whose daughter went cheerfully into the field of science and was often gone into the wilderness for days on end in pursuit of some study. On the other hand the same friend’s sister was a mathematical whiz and after graduation started her own computer programming company. Those two were the exception to the rule for a good many women. Female focus has more often been on family, community, and self-goals rather than loftier more expansive ones, though that has been changing. My granddaughter as a junior in high school in the DC area is ecstatic over being able to take forensic science courses this year.
There is a lot of questions however about how much introduction of STEM is good at the earlier stages and about making sure to ground students in other equally important basics like what we studied as students back in the early 1960’s. After listening to the gibberish some video interviews with current college students, I have to agree. STEM is important but not more important really than any other discipline, especially given that children cut their baby teeth on technology today. Civics, history, memorization, critical thinking, common sense, social skills, personal goals, finance, and business basics also needs to return to the curriculum.
However, it is good that President Trump is also focused on improving education in an overall way. Writing this in a memorandum suggests that it he does see the need for an umbrella oversight by congress or DoE, just not a new law on top of other laws which demand specify education down to the minutia. It suggests as we did many years ago that states are in charge of their education. Hopefully we will see a return to a more complete education system with less socialism propaganda and more actual teaching.