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STEM: Meeting a Critical Demand for Excellence

“Improving education in math and science is about producing engineers, researchers, scientists, and innovators who are going to help transform our economy and our lives for the better.  But, it’s also about something more.  It’s about expanding opportunity for all Americans in a world where an education is the key to success." 
                                                                             -President Barack Obama (11/23/09)

UPDATE!  New Federal Report Concerned about Lost Talent  

The National Science Board – the Board that oversees the National Science Foundation and advises Congress and the White House, released a new report that discusses ways to ensure that the United States has a sufficient supply of innovators.

The full report is available for free download.  Click here.
For NAGC's press release, click here.

 President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology Strategy to Improve K-12 STEM Education

Presidential advisors on science and technology envision a two-pronged strategy for transforming K-12 education:  prepare and inspire students, so they have both a strong foundation in STEM subjects and that they are motivated to study and contemplate careers in STEM fields.

Click here for the full report. 

The Issue

The U.S. still has the strongest scientific and technological enterprise and the best research universities in the world. However, numerous business and government leaders are voicing concern that we are in danger of losing our economic advantage if we fail to re-commit ourselves to increasing the pipeline of U.S. talent into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This pipeline of talent must begin with early educational experiences and opportunities. 

Evidence suggests that not only are K-12 students in the United States falling behind their peers internationally in measures of math and science performance, but the current teacher workforce in the U.S. is not trained to provide a demanding math and science curriculum.  As a result, U.S. students are not filling the seats in our nation's post-secondary science and math programs. Our country needs qualified U.S. employees to fill crucial national security, innovative science, and leading technology jobs. Supporting gifted and talented students with appropriate services in every school district would bring promising results in increased college attendance in math and science, resulting in a direct pipeline of talent for the future. Click Here for NAGC’s fact sheet on increasing the pipeline of talent into the STEM fields.  Click here for a fact sheet on STEM and gifted education.

Gifted Children and STEM

Many highly able and motivated students have a wide range of interests that make selecting a career difficult.  Having an adequate, diverse, and well-trained supply of scientists and engineers depends, in part, on what thousands of high-ability students decide every year to do with their lives, which is influenced by access to varied, challenging coursework taught by highly skilled teachers.

Although the recent concern about the nation’s ability to meet its economic and security needs has led to an increased focus and investment in math and science learning and teaching skills, few of the classroom and teacher training initiatives are focused on top students.

Providing challenging coursework means ensuring opportunities for advanced classes beginning as early as the elementary years. Currently, most gifted children spend the majority of their time in regular classrooms without access to challenging coursework or teachers knowledgeable about the special learning needs of our most highly able learners. Click here for a variety of links both on and away from the NAGC website to help enhance your current curriculum.

Not all teachers recognize the classroom indicators of giftedness, and even those teachers who are aware that there are high-ability students in their classrooms report that they don’t have the time and their schools don’t encourage them to spend time working with these students.

And, even where teachers have time, the National Research Center on Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) found that 61% of classroom teachers had no training in teaching highly able students, limiting the challenging educational opportunities offered to advanced learners.  Highly skilled teachers must be not only competent in the content area in which they teach, but also in the education strategies necessary to support advanced learners including differentiation, acceleration, and curriculum modification. Click here for an in-depth look at how teacher training makes a difference. Click here to find out how a variety of gifted education strategies work!

What We Can Do to Help Gifted Students Achieve STEM Excellence

• Create specialized classes to provide rigorous and challenging material to our most capable learners.
   Click here to read what the research says about Pull-Out Programs and Specialized Classes.

• Expand the number of statewide, public math-science high schools.
   Click here to link to a list of statewide public high schools for advanced learners, 15 of which specialize in the STEM fields.
   Click here to link to the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology.

• Train teachers to recognize giftedness and address the unique needs of gifted and talented students.
   Click here to link to read about how Teacher Training Makes a Difference.

Preparing for Our Future

The National Association for Gifted Children is dedicated to ensuring the success of our most highly able students. Click here to explore a variety of books, professional papers, Gifted Child Quarterly articles, recent news items, and other links supporting STEM education.

There must be a renewed commitment to develop talent and encourage advanced math, science, engineering, and technology in K-12 classrooms with challenging curriculum taught by teachers who understand the educational needs of advanced learners.

Click here for a handy fact sheet on STEM and gifted education.
Learn about the NAGC STEM Network