Web Databases Launched to Aid Policymakers in STEM and Technical Education Development

A Colorado-based public policy organization has launched two Web databases intended to help policymakers and others stimulate work force development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and for those establishing programs for advanced skills in career and technical education (CTE).

Last week, the Education Commission of the States (ECS), located in Denver, introduced http://www.ecs.org/hsdb-stem, which is the Web site for the STEM database, and http://www.ecs.org/hsdb-cte, which is the site for the CTE database.

The STEM database offers information from 50 states on 10 benchmarks defining quality and access to high school-level STEM programs. The database also provides information on state programs targeted at STEM achievement among low-income, female and minority students — groups seen as underrepresented in STEM classrooms. The CTE database offers 50-state data on 13 state policy benchmarks associated with program access and quality, including: the use of employability skill assessment tools, the inclusion of CTE courses in graduation requirements, and funding sources.

“STEM and career and technical education (CTE) both address burning issues for policymakers today. STEM and CTE programs respond to the outcry for more highly-qualified workers to meet growing state and national technical work force needs. At the same time, CTE and STEM courses answer many high school students’ calls to bring relevance and real-world applications into the classroom,” says Jennifer Dounay, an ECS senior policy analyst and manager of the organization’s High School Policy Center.

Formed in 1965, the ECS is a nonpartisan organization established by the states, territories and the U.S. Congress to assist state governors, legislators, state education officials and educators to discover, develop, and implement public policies to boost student learning at all levels. In recent years, ECS officials have focused on how, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the United States “continues to suffer from a shortage of qualified IT workers with flexible and portable skills who can readily adapt and respond to ever-changing IT demands and processes.”

ECS officials believe that publishing the CTE data should have as considerable an impact as the STEM information has among higher education policymakers even though technical careers traditionally have not been seen as academically rigorous. It’s argued nowadays that success for high school graduates, regardless of the postsecondary technical training path they seek, means that available jobs will require considerable knowledge in math and science — including skills that are on par with what are required for traditional four-year degrees. The new ECS databases should enable policymakers to ensure broad access and maintain high-quality instruction and curriculum for STEM and CTE programs, according to ECS officials.

“STEM and CTE programs at the high school level are growing and evolving in response to public and policymaker demand. These ECS databases provide policymakers with just the tools they need to make sure students, regardless of the communities in which they live, have access to these exciting programs and that the instruction and curriculum are at a level to adequately prepare students for life after high school or college,” says Roger Sampson, ECS president.



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