Virginia STEM commission presents recommendations

Published 5:32 pm Friday, September 18, 2020

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The Virginia Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Commission today presented Gov. Ralph Northam its recommendations for creating a statewide vision and a dynamic set of shared goals to inform how the Commonwealth prepares students for STEM jobs of the future. The Commission’s final report outlines a path forward for ensuring equitable opportunities and access to STEM education and aligning Virginia’s efforts to the rapidly evolving needs of employers.

“The shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified the need to confront educational inequities and eliminate opportunity gaps across the STEM ecosystem,” said Gov. Northam. “Proficiency in STEM disciplines is too often dictated by race, gender, socioeconomic status, and zip code. These recommendations will serve as a critical roadmap as we work to ensure every Virginia student has access to quality instruction and graduates with the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to thrive in a technologically-advanced, global society.”

On July 17, 2019, Northam signed Executive Order Thirty-Six, establishing the Virginia STEM Commission and named First Lady Pamela Northam as its chair. The Governor appointed a wide range of stakeholders to serve on the Commission, including representatives of early childhood, K-12, post-secondary, out-of-school, informal and environmental education programs, as well as workforce development, business, and industry partners. Since its formation last year, the Commission has worked across sectors and regions to develop a robust set of recommendations to make STEM education in the Commonwealth more inclusive, accessible, and collaborative.

“We insisted from the start that sustainable improvements could only be made if we included representatives from the entire birth to career pipeline from early learning to higher education, the private sector, and informal educators,” said First Lady Northam. “The Commission’s recommendations will help create a Virginia STEM ecosystem which exposes even our littlest learners to STEM concepts, encourages educators to provide students with project-based learning, and expands access to opportunity for all students, no matter who they are or where they live.”

The Commission recommends the implementation of three key elements to ensure that Virginia’s STEM ecosystem is equipped to meet the needs of every student, from early learning through higher education.

  • A Governing STEM Board to coordinate efforts in creating a common language, establishing a rubric for expectations, and reporting on STEM challenges, goals, and successes across the Commonwealth. The Board would also work to develop and share STEM curricular resources for formal education and for settings outside of the classroom.
  • Regional STEM Hubs to create a local vision for STEM. The Hub Network would coordinate information sharing within communities to deconstruct misconceptions about STEM. Additionally, the Hub would identify STEM champions within communities across the Commonwealth. These efforts would help align efforts to improve educational STEM literacy, with the goal of enabling youth to see themselves as STEM-capable from preschool onward.
  • A STEM Professional Development Model to equip formal and informal educators to provide opportunities for youth to engage in deeper learning, and understand STEM as integral to their everyday lives. This model would increase the quality of STEM programming, terms, and experiences in Virginia and cast a unified vision for what STEM education should look like.

“Historic and pervasive educational disparities have limited access to advanced courses in STEM disciplines, credentials and work-based learning for many girls, students of color, and students in rural regions of the state,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “These recommendations will help Virginia improve STEM education so that it is vibrant, healthy and representative of all people in our Commonwealth.”