With What Money?

In yet another "look how backwards Washington State is and how terrible public education is here" op-eds at the Seattle Times, their newest one features Robin Lake of the Center on Reinventing Public Education. 

Basically, our state is not doing enough to train more STEM graduates.  I use that word "train" deliberately because she seems to think you can just churn out these grads and that is not the case.

First, it would help to understand that it is a societal problem.  Girls are encouraged to think "math is hard."  Every single profile about Bill Gates and his life is guaranteed to use the words "nerd" or "geek." 

Something has to change for it to be okay to be a smart kid in the U.S.  (And NOT supporting all the kids who are doing well also kills the chances for more STEM grads.)

Second, the Center on Reinventing Public Education is a mostly charter school think tank. Remember that when you read this op-ed.

Ms. Lake says:

"Although we have some schools experimenting with different approaches to STEM, we have no way to track which ones are more effective and to replicate them."

Ditto on charters. (Amazingly, Ms. Lake's last posting at the CRPE "blog" was decrying the number of terrible charter schools she found on her visit to Detroit.)

But moving on, I note that she wants the public universities and colleges to allow in MORE students in their computer science programs. I note that she does NOT explain how to teach all those students with the same number of resources.

Also, what kind of jobs do STEM graduates at UW Bothell get compared to UW's Computer Science and Engineering department? How do they compare? It's the big picture - what kind of STEM are you talking about? Are we trying to churn out more lower-level STEM workers or higher-level STEM workers?

She wants to pay STEM teachers in K-12 more. Okay, with what money? Because Senator Rodney Tom says there is no new revenue so what program would she suggest cutting for this?

Our Legislature does not fully-fund education K-12 education. We don't even fund to national average. Our Legislature has slashed higher-ed spending.

It's not enough - from either CRPE or the Times - to have these toss-off op-eds about how badly public education is doing when they have no real answers as to how to fund all these initiatives.

She's right about where the future is for jobs in this country.  But where is the support for the education to get us there?  That's the real question.


Anonymous said…
Robin Lake of CRPE/CRAP can shove it. She has no clue of what she speaks, and instead pulls a Palin - making it up as she goes along.
We have plenty of STEM grads, but they don't always choose to work in STEM fields because employers like Microsoft have figured out it's cheaper to import foreign employees and pay them crap wages, whereas the STEM grads insist on livable wages. I can't tell you how many engineering grads there are who are no longer in the field - or never worked in the field - because the jobs and wages just weren't there. And yes, I have documentation - it is freely out there for those of you who know how to use the power of Google/Google Scholar and key words
As for girls in STEM - perhaps rather than spouting crap in the Blethen Times echo hall, she could get involved with things like the PNWGCP conference that was held in December - part of the National Girls Collaborative project, or Project Splash, or FabFems and put both her money and her mouth to work for something a bit more worthwhile. Paying teachers different amounts because of what they teach is BS and only causes more problems, plus there's the whole little issue of values - whose values should be represented in what is taught and what is not? - and hers are most definitely corporate values.
Anonymous said…
I feel like for the most part that STEM has just become an empty buzzword. My son was in a school program in another district in WA state that had a middle school "STEM" fair. This was despite the fact that they had no science in the curriculum at all (in 7th grade), no technology aside from computers which were used for word processing capabilities and to access Khan academy, and certainly no engineering. They had no science in the curriculum "because the science teacher quit." There was also no art, music or foreign language.

When the focus of a school becomes math and reading scores, science loses. As do a lot of other things. And just who does Robin Lake think we have to thank for such a focus?

Laura said…
Looks like STEM might be reverting back to STEAM, which could help in the long run. There's a bill in the legislature right now to add the 'A' back in STEM and fund arts education.
Agree with the points made: it has to be okay to be smart! At the same time, people are smart in different ways and in different areas. Putting arts education back in the schools in a meaningful way will boost students' interest and give them some food for their soul as well. Our society is so focused on the 'bottom line'--as if there is only one way to be and one job worth having. That attitude--that striving for an end 'product'--influences our educational offerings and approaches too greatly.
chunga said…
Shouldn't we just strive for a well-rounded curriculum? This special emphasis on STEM seems misguided. There is certainly no STEM job crisis as business leaders keep on saying (http://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/education/the-stem-crisis-is-a-myth).

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