Report: STEM Message Not Getting Through

It seems as if everyone is talking about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) talent shortage, but the message is apparently not being heard. Randstad US conducted a study to uncover key motivations, beliefs and perspectives of STEM-related topics among kids aged 11 to 17.

The research shows that despite high interest in STEM studies and confidence in STEM skills at a younger age, interest dwindles as children grow older. Students 11 to 14 years old are 18% more likely than students aged 15 to 17 to consider math one of their favorite subjects. Fifty-six percent of young people also said knowing how STEM skills relate to the real world would make STEM classes more interesting.

“The term ‘STEM’ needs a rebrand and awareness campaign to get the next generation of talent excited about pursuing these careers,” said Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer for Randstad North America. “Young people are self-selecting out of higher STEM education classes because they can’t see how these skills apply to different professions and employers they’re excited about. It’s a misperception and a serious economic problem, as a rapidly growing number of jobs now require STEM competencies. If we don’t find a way to guide and prepare the future workforce for these positions, we run the risk of the need for these skills escalating and the hiring gap expanding.”  

The study revealed not only a lack of students’ awareness of what types of STEM jobs exist, but also a lack of personal connection to STEM professionals and how STEM jobs are defined.

  • 52% of students say they don’t know anyone with a job in STEM, and more than 1 in 4 students (27%) say they haven’t talked to anyone about jobs in STEM.
  • Almost half (49%) of respondents say they don’t know what kind of math jobs exist and 76% report not knowing a lot about what engineers do.
  • 87% think people who study STEM work at companies like NASA; far fewer associate them with mainstream consumer brands like Instagram (40%) and Coca-Cola (26%).

Young people reported high enthusiasm for careers not explicitly defined as STEM but requiring related skills, suggesting the need for broader education as to how STEM skills can be applied in fields beyond math and science.

  • 64% of students rate creating video games for a living as very fun, while 90% rate it somewhat fun.
  • 54% of respondents think it would be very fun to earn a living working with marine life, with 89% rating it as at least somewhat fun.
  • 47% think it would be very fun to make web sites for a living, with 86% saying it would be at least somewhat fun.

K-12 Teacher Shortage Grows

Teacher shortages are not a new concern and the subject areas with the biggest gaps remain fairly consistent. Still, as the 2017-2018 school year was beginning, CNN had an extensive report on the challenge. Among the findings:

The Learning Policy Institute estimated that if trends continue, there could be a nationwide shortfall of 112,000 teachers by 2018.

Public schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia report teacher shortages in math for the 2017-18 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Forty-six states report shortages in special education, 43 in science and 41 in foreign languages.

Nationwide, teacher education enrollments dropped 35% between 2009 and 2014, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

A survey at UCLA found that freshmen’s interest in teaching as a career has steadily declined over the past decade.

Dan Goldhaber, director of the University of Washington’s Center for Education Data and Research, who studies educational trends at the University of Washington, sees two main reasons.

Math and science teachers aren’t paid enough. Salaries for U.S. secondary school teachers have largely remained the same over the past two decades, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

And students in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) can make more in other professions than they would teaching.

Teaching in the U.S. is too demanding. About 8% of teachers leave teaching each year, with two-thirds quitting before retirement, according to the Learning Policy Institute. This is double the percentage of teachers leaving the profession in countries like Singapore and Finland.

As far as potential solutions:

  • Help students be more strategic about their teaching opportunities. When students enter teaching certification programs, let them know where the jobs are. In many parts of the country, they’ll have an easier time finding jobs to teach math or science than English.
  • Partner school districts with local college and university programs. Though the teacher shortage is rooted partly in subject areas, it’s also a matter of location. Schools in low-income areas struggle more to fill positions. “It is the kids that are oftentimes most at risk that are the ones who are likely to suffer the most,” Goldhaber said.

One way to fix that would be to pull in students from local higher-ed programs to help teach in those areas. Many may stick around for a full-time job after graduation.

  • Make teacher certification national instead of state by state.Prospective teachers must pass an exam specific to the state they want to work in. But if a teacher wants to move from, say, Pennsylvania to California, they can’t immediately apply for jobs there. By having a national certification exam, teachers would have more mobility to go where they’re needed.

Purdue, Others to Help With Micro Debt

Purdue University is one of 11 schools that formed the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) in 2014. As reported recently by Fast Company, the UIA members are planning to tackle a challenge that is preventing many students from completing their degree.

Bridget Burns, the executive director of the coalition, says that most of UIA’s school presidents realized they were doing an awful job at keeping students enrolled, particularly those who from low-income households, first generation, or students of color. “It seems like a bunch of institutions … repeating the same experiments (to fix things) over and over and in many cases making the same mistakes.”

One alarming trend: Despite receiving financial aid, roughly 4,000 seniors who have good grades may quit school because of small outstanding scholastic debt. The sums are often less than $1,000 – but in many cases, such balances make them unable to register for their next batch of classes.

UIA and its partners will spend $4 million on micro-debt forgiveness, which will be managed by in-network academic advisors to use at their discretion over the course of the next five semesters. Half of the money is coming primarily from the Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates but the other half is a school match. Because every project that UIA does is carefully vetted beforehand, all institutions agree to double whatever philanthropic amount is directed toward their campuses.

The estimated award per student is projected to be about $900, but students can’t apply; administrators, who are adhering to an internal formula designed to spot the best candidates, will identify candidates and offer the one-time surprise infusion. “We know there’s variation across the 11 (schools) but we want to find the students who are low income, on track to graduate within a year – so they’ve already got a lot of effort behind them and it’s not too far ahead – but they have some unexpected costs,” Burns says.

Those costs might be anything that could disrupt an already tight budget, from a parking ticket that went unpaid and snowballed, to car repair, or an unexpected rent or medical issue that affected someone’s prioritization for what must be repaid. For low-income students already on loans, that’s generally a dream killer.

“If we don’t help them through to the finish line, that could waste all their effort.”

The concept of micro-debt relief has already proven effective at Georgia State University, a UIA affiliate that started its own retention granting program in 2011 to try to support the 1,000 or so students that it was losing each semester of extremely small tuition balances. Georgia State’s program is open to all students, not just seniors. Historically, it has 75% of those with more than a year to go are still enrolled 12 months later, while 60% of senior recipients go on to graduate within the same year that they receive assistance.

Burns expects UIA disbursements to cover only about half of the coalition’s students in need. That’s partly because of limited funding but also necessary because it’s a wide-scale experiment. Not aiding everyone creates a sad but necessary control group, allowing future funders to better compare the power of small, emergency cash allowances for those who received them versus those who didn’t.

More broadly, however, she hopes that UIA’s investment encourages other schools to act similarly. “This signaled where they should be focusing their attention,” she says. “These are many of the most innovative universities, who are saying, ‘These are things that are worth your limited time energy and money.’ ”

Bachelors (Degrees) Dominate In This State

In the Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card released earlier this summer, Massachusetts led the way in percentage of the population with at least a bachelor’s degree. That’s not too surprising considering the prevalence of higher education institutions in the Boston area and the state’s entrepreneurial, tech-based economy.

(Indiana, by the way, was 39th in the 2015 statistics with 26.7% of resident possessing at least a four-year degree).

The update, according to a report from the independent Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center:

Half of all workers in Massachusetts held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2016, marking the first time any U.S. state has reached that educational threshold.

The same analysis points to a growing wage chasm in the state, with the college-educated earning on average 99% – or nearly double – the wages of those in the labor force with only a high school education. That difference, often referred to as the “college wage premium,” was 56.6% across the entire nation in 2016.

In Massachusetts, 50.2% of individuals participating in the state’s labor force had attained at minimum a four-year degree from a college or university in 2016. The next highest states were New Jersey (45.2%), New York (43.7%), Maryland (43%) and Connecticut (42.7%), according to the Current Population Survey data. The U.S. average was 35.5% in 2016.

The numbers point to a dramatic shift in recent decades. In 1979, only about 20% of the Massachusetts labor force had bachelor’s degrees, and the college wage premium was 50%.

VIDEO: Brinegar Explains School Corporation Size Study

Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar discusses the recent study from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research: “School Corporation Size & Student Performance: Evidence from Indiana,” commissioned by the Indiana Chamber Foundation.

Chamber Offers Bountiful Training Options

Amidst the falling leaves and football games, take time to update your skills with a variety of education and training opportunities from the Indiana Chamber in October.

One of the leading events is the 2017 Indiana Environmental Conference on October 23-24 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. The event takes place in partnership with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and is presented by Plews Shadley Racher & Braun, LLP.

Ellen Ketterson, Ph.D., Indiana University distinguished professor of biology, will give the opening keynote presentation on the university’s Grand Challenge initiative, a $55 million investment to help Hoosiers become prepared for environmental change.

IDEM attorneys Nancy King and Beth Admire will open the second day’s program by discussing the restoration of the Grand Calumet River. Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso) and Jim McGoff of the Indiana Finance Authority will deliver an update on water legislation during a closing luncheon keynote presentation.

Breakout sessions on a variety of topics will take place both days; an expo runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 23.

The Gold sponsor is Bose McKinney & Evans LLP. Silver sponsors are Air Quality Services, Ice Miller LLP, Roberts Environmental Services, Taft Law and Trinity Consultants.

Register for the conference online or call (800) 824-6885.

Three other training opportunities focus on human resources and safety:

 

New Training Grants for Employers Now Available

The Indiana Chamber has been strongly encouraging our state government leaders to take bold action to address Indiana’s current and future workforce needs – a significant concern for many of our members.

We’re pleased to see Gov. Holcomb’s recent rollout of the Next Level Jobs initiative, which will help to further ensure employees have the skills needed to compete in the 21st century workforce.

What does this mean for your business?

Employer Training Grants are available! Employers in high-demand business sectors can be reimbursed up to $2,500 for each new employee that is trained, hired and retained for six months.

• Your employees can also take advantage of Workforce Ready Grants and access free education opportunities to help sharpen their skill set for the changing workforce.

Let us know if you need assistance in navigating these opportunities.

Education Interim Study Committee and Graduation Pathways Panel Get Going

The Education Interim Study Committee will have three meetings this year on the following dates and subjects:

• August 30 – Eligibility of an undocumented student brought to the United States as a minor (aka, “Dreamer”) to pay the resident tuition rate that is determined by a state educational institution
• September 28 –  New teacher induction programs
• October 25 – Federal Every Student Succeeds Act

The Indiana Chamber will be covering these hearings and will report pertinent information to our membership.

Separately, the Graduation Pathways Panel has already completed two of its eight meetings scheduled before November 1, 2017. As background, the panel was developed as a part of House Bill 1003, which created the new statewide assessment platform to replace ISTEP, now called ILEARN. In addition to installing a new test, the law introduces the idea of pathways for graduation, or other opportunities for students to graduate besides passage of an end-of-course assessment. The law suggests that pathways MAY include options like passing the SAT/ACT or ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery); earning an industry certification; earning AP, dual credit or International Baccalaureate credits; or any other pathway as determined by the panel.

The Chamber’s Caryl Auslander, vice president of education and workforce, was appointed to the task force to provide a voice for Hoosier employers and to underscore that employers have a direct stake in the skills that Indiana students may graduate with.

The first meeting set goals and standards for the panel, and the discussion centered around these questions: How do we establish graduation pathways rigorous enough to create an educated and talented workforce and how can we best align this with what our business and higher education communities need?

The second meeting, which took place this week, featured students and collaborators as invited guests and attempted to answer the following questions:

• How do we establish graduation pathways that allow every student to find success after high school?
• How do you define “success?”
• What are some gaps/deficiencies students experience in their preparation for college and careers? And how would you address those?
• What do you think meaningful and valuable pathways are? What is the best way high schools can set students up to be successful in higher education or business?

Making recommendations for pathways will be a difficult process, but we are grateful that the employer community can be represented on the panel. We will reiterate to other stakeholders the importance of having rigorous pathways that provide currency for the students post-graduation so that they can achieve further education, or meet skills gaps in the workforce. We look forward to further meetings and collaboration over the next few weeks.

Changes to Graduation Requirements Imminent

ISTEP will soon change into ILEARN, per House Enrolled Act 1003 which was signed into law this spring. However, an important part of the legislation is often overlooked. There will soon be changes to graduation requirements; instead of having end-of-course assessments be counted as the graduation exam, graduation pathways will be determined by the State Board of Education (SBOE). These options could include:

  • passing end-of-course assessments;
  • SAT or ACT scores;
  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude exams;
  • industry-recognized credential; or
  • earning of advanced placement, international baccalaureate or dual credits.

Obviously, employer input is key to ensuring that these graduation pathways have currency for students/future employees. Governor Holcomb has appointed the Chamber’s Caryl Auslander, vice president of education and workforce development, to sit on the Graduation Pathways Panel along with representation from the SBOE, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Commission for Higher Education, Department of Workforce Development and chairs of the House and Senate education committees.

This panel will meet in late summer/early fall; we will keep you updated on the process.

Indiana Chamber-Ball State Study: Student Performance Suffers in Smaller Districts

School corporation size has a direct impact on student achievement. And more than half of Indiana school corporations are too small to produce the most effective outcomes, according to research commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation and conducted by the Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER).

Numerous earlier studies, both nationally and by CBER, found that school corporations with fewer than 2,000 students are not able to operate at optimal efficiency to maximize resources going into the classroom. This new study – School Corporation Size & Student Performance: Evidence from Indiana – (full report and Appendix available at www.indianachamber.com/education) also documents significantly poorer academic performance, on average, for students from these smaller corporations. Comprehensive analysis and modeling reveals the following improved outcomes if school corporations contain between 2,000 and 2,999 students:

  • SAT test scores (+20.5 points)
  • Advanced Placement (AP) pass rates (+14.9%)
  • Eighth-grade ISTEP scores (+5%)
  • Algebra and biology end of course assessment (ECA) pass rates (+4%)

“This is not about closing buildings or eliminating schools,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “It’s about reducing per-pupil administrative costs to put more money into classrooms, increasing pay for deserving teachers, making more STEM classes available and, most importantly, helping ensure the best possible student outcomes.

“That will drive per capita income and is especially critical for smaller communities,” he continues. “Greater student achievement is the biggest thing we can do for rural economic development and those local residents.”

In 2014, 154 of Indiana’s 289 school corporations had total enrollments of less than 2,000 students. Eighty-five of those corporations experienced enrollment declines of 100 or more students between 2006 and 2014.

Only 21 of Indiana’s 92 counties have a single school corporation. Twenty-two counties have three corporations, 19 have two corporations and 13 have four corporations. The most corporations in a single county are 16 in Lake County and 11 in Marion County.

“With today’s fierce competition for talent, too many young people in our state are suffering due to inadequate preparation for postsecondary education or the workforce,” Brinegar adds. “The data show smaller corporations are getting smaller. In many instances, it’s already too difficult for them to overcome the challenges of limited resources.”

Ball State researchers took into account demographic and socioeconomic factors. For example, the average SAT score of 949.5 in the smallest corporations (between 240 and 999 students) compares to a 989.8 average in corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999 students. Even when economic differences between corporations are factored in, that 40-point raw gap remains at more than 20.5 points.

AP course offerings are one indicator of preparation for higher education, with higher-level math and science courses often a pre-requisite for pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. Corporations with fewer than 1,000 students offered an average of 2.69 AP courses with enrollment of 8.53 students in 2015. That compares to 5.95 offerings and 22.26 students for corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999 students and even more courses and student participants in larger school districts.

The research reveals “94% of Indiana’s small school corporations (fewer than 2,000 students) are contiguous with another small corporation.”

North Central Parke Community School Corp. was created in 2013 by the merger of the Rockville and Turkey Run school districts. Parke County continues to lose population and district enrollment for the most recent school year was only 1,200. In April, the school board voted to combine (within two years) into one high school and one middle school.

“It’s hard to operate a comprehensive academic program” with so few students, district superintendent Tom Rohr said at the time of the most recent vote. “That’s really … a driving force. Our teachers have gotten behind this. They are saying, ‘Let’s do what is best for kids.’”