Maryland to Rewrite STEM Standards to Interest Students

To fill the employment gap expected to be created by growth in the technology sector, Maryland is looking to revamp its science standards to produce graduates who are more interested in pursuing majors in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in college. Scott Dance of The Baltimore Sun reports that the state board of education will this week begin considering a new curriculum which will focus less on rote memorization and more on encouraging students to think critically and ask questions.

Maryland is hoping to fill the need among local businesses for employees with technological know-how. According to a recent study, even today, a quarter of jobs advertised in the Baltimore area require strong tech skills and the percentage is expected to grow in coming years.

Businesses around the state are welcoming the change, which began in 2009 with a report from a state taskforce that recommended a curriculum overhaul, increased internship opportunities for students, and training for teachers to increase the number of high school graduates on the STEM track. The taskforce was a joint effort between education professional and industry representatives from companies like Lockheed Martin and Apple.

Meanwhile, a national effort was ongoing to redesign science education. Maryland and 26 states worked alongside the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, as well as teachers from around the country. Two Maryland school board members, including the president, have been directly involved in the effort funded by the Carnegie Foundation.

The U.S. Department of Education was not involved in crafting the voluntary curriculum standards, which are designed to better engage students and to show them how the subject can apply in their lives and future careers.

The collaboration found that the current approach used to teach STEM subjects fell short of developing student expertise and interest. The key, according to education professionals, was to foster rather than stifle children's natural curiosity to prepare them to solve open-ended design problems that are typical in the industry.

Businesses are supporting the efforts, giving about $750 million nationwide each year to improve STEM education.
Battelle, a global research and development defense contractor, signed an agreement last year with the John Carroll School in Harford County to support its STEM Academy. The partnership gives high schoolers opportunities for internships and job shadowing, and in the spring, brought company engineers and students together for a "Cyber Night" where teens learned about code-cracking and computer virus protection.

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