The Intersection

Is North Carolina Ready for a STEM-Driven Economy?

May 29, 2013


In April, the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (SMT Center) released the NC STEM ScoreCard. The acronym STEM is known for the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  These disciplines are pointed to as leading economic development of the 21st Century. The SMT Center takes a different approach and looks at the driving force behind STEM as Strategies that Engage Minds.

The report looks at six domains of STEM preparedness and offers action items for each:

STEM Workforce and Economic Impact
In order to promote collaboration across public and private sectors to create a strong STEM workforce, we recommend convening a broad-based public-private partnership to increase public awareness and build support for a broad range of actions to increase STEM capacity in North Carolina.

Informal Education and STEM Literacy
The vibrant community of informal learning resources across North Carolina must be leveraged through stronger networks and deeper collaborations with PreK-12, higher education, and the business community to measurably increase STEM literacy and career preparation.

Strategic Investments and Innovation
A concerted effort must be undertaken to ensure that all students have broadband access at school and at home by the beginning of 2016-17 school year, when the state plans to migrate to digital textbooks and assessments.

College and Career Readiness
The report recommends that the General Assembly create a post-secondary loan-forgiveness scholarship program for high school and college graduates from underrepresented minority populations, females, and those who come from families with limited resources, and who subsequently commit to earning STEM-related degrees at a North Carolina college or university. The loan would be forgiven through employment in a STEM-related job in North Carolina.

Teacher Quality
The State Board of Education (SBE) should take immediate action to ensure that all teachers, especially science and mathematics teachers, are fully licensed in their disciplines. Higher education institutions should increase access to content courses to help reduce out-of-field STEM teaching.  Most importantly, the SBE should develop, and the General Assembly should fund, a differentiated pay schedule for fully licensed science and mathematics teachers within two years.

Centers of Excellence in STEM Teacher Preparation should be established to meet the demand for fully licensed STEM teachers within five years.

Leadership and Policy Support
The NC Association of School Administrators, the NC School Superintendents Association, and the NC School Boards Association must take a more active role in advancing STEM education as a strategic priority in North Carolina’s schools.  These organizations, and others, must provide professional development for school leaders and school board members to learn about and adopt best practices in STEM education.

And finally, we feel that the Governor and/or the General Assembly should appoint and empower a new Commission on STEM and Economy, with the specific responsibility to drive and coordinate state initiatives to make the finding and recommendations listed above actionable.

North Carolina has the possibility of a very bright economic future if the state can maximize its strengths and assets. The state has an established infrastructure of informal and formal STEM learning opportunities and well-distributed educational institutions.  However, research uncovered several deficiencies that must be addressed.  We hope this ScoreCard can begin the conversation for positive action.


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