Dr. Reo Pruiett is a program officer for the T-STEM Initiative at Educate Texas (formerly Texas High School Project). To learn more about Educate Texas and Dr. Pruiett’s work, visit www.thsp.org.
According to the Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America, 2011:
- Between 2008 and 2018, new jobs in Texas requiring postsecondary education and training will grow by 1.3 million while jobs for high school graduates and dropouts will grow by 915,000.
- Between 2008 and 2018, Texas will create 4 million job vacancies both from new jobs and job openings due to retirement.
- 2.2 million of these job vacancies will be for those with postsecondary credentials, 1.1 million for high school graduates and 667,000 for high school dropouts.
- Texas ranks 31st in terms of the proportion of its 2018 jobs that will require a Bachelor’s degree, and is 1st in jobs for high school dropouts.
- 56% of all jobs in Texas (7.7 million jobs) will require some postsecondary training beyond high school in 2018.
As the Greater Texas Foundation noted in their introductory post, Texas and our nation are facing significant barriers to increasing the number of students who are college ready and earn a credential or degree. In the second post of the series, Michael Collins stated there are promising practices across the U.S. that are improving students’ chances at succeeding in attaining a postsecondary credential or degree. Collins states that “a growing number of states and colleges are implementing more proactive strategies to prevent the need for developmental education. This includes making early assessment and early remediation opportunities available to high school students.” Yet, with many promising solutions and best practices options available, how do we as a state or nation join forces to make sure these practices are in place to serve our students and our communities? How can communities collaborate to meet the educational needs, workforce needs and business and industry needs at the same time?
Educate Texas, a public-private initiative of Communities Foundation of Texas, is currently focused on ramping up efforts to scale promising practices learned from innovative public school models that promote and provide post-secondary access and career opportunities to traditionally underserved students. Since 2005, Educate Texas (formerly known as the Texas High School Project), along with its private foundation partners and the Texas Education Agency has been supporting the start-up of Texas-Science, Technology, Engineering Math (T-STEM) Academies and Early College High Schools (ECHS) which primarily serve students typically under-represented in postsecondary education. At 108 schools, the investment in innovative school models in Texas is the most extensive anywhere in the United States. The T-STEM academies are designed to offer college ready curriculum and instruction with a focus on math and science-related subjects, while ECHSs are designed to provide the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and one to two years of transferable college credit by high school graduation.
Math should be a gateway, not a gatekeeper, to a successful college education. Students must come to see math as an essential aspect of their everyday lives, no matter what their field of study. They need to think, “I can understand this, I can do this, this is important to know.” The math pathway for students pursuing majors in the math-oriented disciplines is well established: Students work their way through algebra to calculus. Certainly, students entering science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields need to be proficient in pre-calculus and the algebra on which it depends.
Anthony Bryk and Uri Treisman
Through the planning, start-up, implementation and ongoing support of T-STEM Academies and ECHS campuses, Educate Texas has discovered that math can indeed be a barrier to postsecondary access for traditionally underrepresented students. The T-STEM and ECHS campuses focus relentlessly on math, particularly Algebra I mastery to ensure that lack of math skills does not hinder postsecondary prospects for students. ECHSs are strategic about the timing and dosage of instructional strategies for math classes, while T-STEM Academies rely on the T-STEM Centers (seven university-based centers, tasked with supporting T-STEM academies and all Texas schools by designing innovative STEM curricula, delivering professional development and creating strategic partnerships among businesses, higher education entities, and school districts). The T-STEM Centers provide intensive, focused, and customizable professional development units on math instruction for teachers in T-STEM Academies.
Educate Texas is committed to ensuring first-generation, low-income Texas students are college-ready and poised for postsecondary success. Yet, the need to do more and reach more students statewide is compelling. Educate Texas understands that while individual school start-up is a worthy endeavor, more dramatic and positive impact for the postsecondary success of Texas’s underserved students can be achieved by taking STEM to scale.
One way Educate Texas is scaling STEM is through the development of a statewide STEM strategy. Educate Texas believes our state can benefit from embracing select STEM talent development strategies that intentionally align and support both economic development goals of the state and the individual opportunities of its students. Our current work has helped us create a robust network of superintendents, policy makers, state agencies, philanthropic groups, practitioner and community based organizations and higher education institutions that can support a statewide STEM strategy: a coordinated approach that links STEM education, workforce, and economic development through scalable policy, programs, and practice to prepare students for enriching lives and to help grow Texas’s economy.
Elements of the STEM statewide strategy include:
- Alignment of economic and talent development in an ongoing strategic approach tied to specific growth targets for both, mobilize STEM champions to support and sustain the effort, and identify innovations in policy and practice that will benefit the state;
- Growth and expansion of current quality STEM teaching and learning, and the assets that support it; and
- Identifying and launching STEM-ready communities within Texas to inspire and drive student demand, support STEM integration in classrooms across regions, and advocate for high expectations of STEM knowledge and skill development at the local level.
In addition to developing and launching a statewide STEM strategy, Educate Texas has embarked upon an effort to launch a STEM district. Educate Texas recently issued a Dallas-Fort Worth metro area Request For Proposal to build district and community support for STEM education district-wide. The STEM District-wide initiative’s objectives include:
- Being intentional about ensuring rigor and high quality curricula and instruction in math, science, technology and design throughout a district (K-12);
- Building STEM talent in the classroom and a pipeline for a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce; and
- Working with institutions of higher education, businesses/industry and economic development to ensure alignment of goals, efforts, and resources.
One of several interested North Texas districts will be officially invited to partner with Educate Texas to build out its district-wide STEM education model in early 2012. Through these large-scale efforts, Educate Texas hopes to continue to expand postsecondary opportunities and ensure postsecondary success for an ever-growing proportion of Texas’s students.