A Win in Washington for STEM

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SWE Applauds New Law to Enhance STEM Education

The Society of Women Engineers applauds the U.S. House and Senate for passing the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This landmark legislation, signed by the President December 10, 2015, replaces the outdated No Child Left Behind Act, and addresses several priorities supported by SWE and the greater STEM education community. We extend our congratulations to Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), and their staff and colleagues for working to include provisions supported by SWE in the bill, such as:

  • Maintaining rigorous college and career standards in science and mathematics education that are also aligned to career and technical education standards;
  • Providing states the funding flexibility to improve science assessments through integrating engineering design skills and practices;
  • Providing state and local flexibility specifically for STEM teacher professional development and high quality instruction;
  • Supporting alternative certification for STEM teachers, as well as differential pay; and,
  • Ensuring the inclusion of STEM-related education activities as part of a well-rounded education that can be funded in both classroom and informal educational settings.
  • Explicitly including Š—“engineeringŠ— and other STEM subjects, such as Š—“computer scienceŠ— in the definition of Š—“well rounded education subjectsŠ— to put these crucial disciplines on par with other subjects commonly found in K-12 curriculum.
Della Cronin (2nd from R) Attends ESSA Signing on Behalf of SWE
Della Cronin (2nd from R) of Washington Partners Attends ESSA Signing on Behalf of SWE

It goes without saying that SWE and its members focused their advocacy efforts on STEM and engineering education, but the larger goals of this lawŠ—”closing the achievement gap and ensuring that all students have access to quality education regardless of their zip codeŠ—”is important to the country, its continued economic health as well as the engineering workforce and the companies that rely on it.

Now that a new bill has been signed into law, we look forward to working with states and local school districts to maintain a focus on STEM education. In particular, we will continue to ensure that young women have access to quality STEM instruction and teachers and their interest in engineering is nurtured. The need to close the achievement gap in science and mathematics persists, as most of the country saw scores drop or remain flat in those areas in recently announced results from the National Assessment of Education Progress. Those gaps translate into lost opportunities, as studies have shown women earn only 19 percent of all engineering degrees and 26 percent of all mathematics and computer science degrees. However, the new ESSA provides hope that attainment and opportunity is possible for all, if we come together to achieve it.