With New Administration, 100Kin10 Renews Call to Support STEM Teachers

By Madeline Will — March 01, 2017 4 min read
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100Kin10, a national nonprofit focused on recruiting, preparing, and supporting teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math, published an open letter on Monday that reiterated the importance of their mission in a new political climate.

“To produce big ideas, solve our biggest challenges, and keep America competitive on a global scale, students need excellent educations — in STEM especially,” the letter, which was signed by about 90 organizations, business leaders, and education advocates, reads. "...Yet many STEM teachers aren’t receiving the essential preparation, resources, and encouragement to do their jobs effectively. In fact, we face a great shortage of qualified STEM teachers nationwide. This need for excellent STEM teachers long preceded the most recent election, and, if we don’t all take action, it will extend well beyond the next four years.”

Among the signers are: the American Association of Physics Teachers; David L. Evans, the executive director of National Science Teachers Association; Chester E. Finn Jr., the president emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute; Ellen Moir, the CEO of the New Teacher Center; and several higher education leaders.

100Kin10 was founded after President Barack Obama called for recruiting, training, and retaining 100,000 more STEM teachers within a decade in his 2011 State of the Union address. 100Kin10 has become a network of nearly 300 public and private organizations that have collectively pledged more than $90 million, and it says it is on track to reach Obama’s goal, with more than 40,000 new STEM teachers already trained at the halfway point.

Despite the fact that the initiative stemmed (no pun intended) from an Obama initiative, Talia Milgrom-Elcott, the group’s co-founder and executive director, said it is still going forward in a new administration.

“Whatever your goals are for this country and our planet ... those things hinge on many more kids having excellent STEM knowledge and skills,” she said. And you can’t get to that point, she added, without excellent teachers who feel supported.

Milgrom-Elcott said 100Kin10 has not yet reached out to the Trump administration, and she is still deciding how or if she will. But, she said, the letter represents a diverse range of bipartisan voices. And since the initiative began with a decade-long goal, Milgrom-Elcott said, its partners always knew that they would be eventually working under a new administration.

“STEM education is one of the few truly nonpartisan, multisector, urgent issues in which we feel there are opportunities for amazing and surprising alliances, where we can actually get stuff done,” she said.

She said this open letter was signed and well-received by so many people partly because it felt like a timely opportunity for people to transcend the divisiveness and come together for a common goal.

“People want to stand up for things that matter to them,” she said. “Looking past some of the ... politics to what the country needs and what our kids need, it’s striking a chord. That’s a beautiful note in this moment.”

During the presidential campaign, my colleague Liana Loewus compared Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s stances on STEM education. Trump said then: “There are a host of STEM programs already in existence. What the federal government should do is make sure that educational opportunities are available for everyone. This means we must allow market influences to bring better, higher quality educational circumstances to more children.”

Some scientists have worried about Trump’s support of science and STEM education—the president has expressed doubts on the validity of climate change. But on Tuesday, Trump signed two bills into law that seek to increase women’s participation in STEM fields through programs at NASA and the National Science Foundation.

“Currently, only 1 in every 4 women who gets a STEM degree is working in a STEM job, which is not fair and it’s not even smart for the people that aren’t taking advantage of it,” Donald Trump said, according to the remarks released by the White House. “It’s unacceptable that we have so many American women who have these degrees but yet are not being employed in these fields. So I think that’s going to change. That’s going to change very rapidly.”

He later said: “We want American women who graduate from college with STEM degrees to be able to get STEM jobs that can support their families and help these American women to live out the American Dream, which they are so qualified to live out.”

The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields is one of the challenges 100Kin10 lists in its open letter, along with the underrepresentation of minorities, dwindling enrollment in teacher-preparation programs for STEM, the high rate of STEM teachers who leave the profession, and the need for more early-childhood STEM education.

Image via Getty

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.