Competition Essential to Solving U.S. STEM Gap

Source: eSchool News

Developing a rigorous vetting process for talented teachers and opening up school choice options are paramount to engaging students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), according to a new report by National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Research Fellow Lloyd Bentsen IV.

“It’s important to remember that real education reforms are necessary to effectively engage our students in the education process,” says Bentsen. “Finding and retaining more talented teachers and allowing students to choose the school that makes them the most comfortable are both key to engaging students in difficult subjects like STEM-related education.”

“There is a growing shortage of STEM-skilled workers, but many STEM graduates are not working in STEM fields. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and other data, total STEM employment in 2012 was 5.3 million (immigrant and native), while there are over 12.1 million STEM degree holders (immigrant and native). Only one-third of employed native-born Americans with an undergraduate STEM degree actually work in a STEM occupation,” according to the report.

Because employers are facing a growing shortage of American STEM workers combined with the continued mediocre performance of American students in international rankings, Bentsen proposes engaging students by:

  • Eliminating lecture-only classes
  • Opening up private school choice to allow students to connect with schools and teachers that best fit their learning styles
  • Using free-market principles to improve teacher quality and pay

“Engaging students in STEM fields is the key to encouraging economic growth and securing America’s competitive advantage,” says Bentsen. “Encouraging competition to bring out the best in our schools, teachers and students is the best way to truly invest in education.”

According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, students who strongly agreed with both of the following two statements were 30 times more likely to be emotionally engaged at school than those who strongly disagreed:

  • My school is committed to building the strengths of each student.
  • I have at least one teacher who makes me excited about the future.


The survey also reported that:

  • Nearly half of students feel stuck or discouraged by their ability to succeed at school and beyond.
  • Forty-five percent of students are not engaged or — even worse — are actively disengaged while at school.
  • Only 33 percent of students in grades five through 12 are “success-ready,” meaning they scored highly on measures of hope, engagement and well-being.