Gov. Terry Branstad's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Council released a first-year assessment report today. The report says some progress still exist, but disparities between boys and girls still exist and they get worse as students get older.

 

The 248-page report, which was put together by evaluation centers at each of the three state universities, is being presented at a semiannual meeting of the council today.

 

"On one hand, I am relieved. It's an objective, autonomous evaluation consortium, and they do not have a pony in the race," said Jeff Weld, executive director of the council. "...They find both promise and peril in the report."

 

One of the key efforts of the council was taking 12 "exemplary" existing programs at schools around the state and extending those programs to other schools and other education groups, such as after-school clubs, during the 2012-13 school year. Through that effort, the programs reached 38,000 students.

 

The good: 

  • Efforts to extend the programs seems to have worked; 89 percent of students reported more interest in at least one STEM subject after having participated.
  • Math and science scores were considerably stronger in for students who participated in STEM Council programs than those who did not.
  • All of the 12 programs improved interest among students in the areas targeted.

The bad:

  • Parents around the state feel that students in urban areas are receiving a higher-quality education in STEM subjects than those in rural areas.
  • Disparities in competency and interest between boys and girls remain.
  • Interest in STEM fields diminishes as students grow older. However, high school students who participated in the exemplary programs had higher interest levels.

"I think we're really on to something here," Weld said. "I have cautious optimism that we are really on to something strong and potent."

 

The council was formed in late 2011, with efforts leading up to the 2012-13 school year. It is chaired by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Vermeer Corp. President and CEO Mary Andringa. To read the full report, click here.