Feb. 20, 2013 | SEATTLE –
Over 90 percent of Washington voters think students will have more opportunities if they have strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills, while nearly 70 percent of Washington voters think schools expect too little of students in these areas, according to a new poll.
The survey conducted for Washington STEM, a nonprofit devoted to improving teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and math, also found that three out of four Washington voters believe computer science classes should count as a high school math or science credit.
The survey found an almost universal perception that STEM skills enhance opportunity and economic vitality. The poll also offers a call to action to families, businesses, schools, and policymakers to help prepare and inspire every student in STEM.
“Washingtonians want their kids to learn the science, technology, engineering, and math skills that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” said Patrick D’Amelio, chief executive officer of Washington STEM. “They know that STEM education supports and drives our economy.”
In most school districts in Washington state, computer science is an elective course that does not count as a math or science credit, even though many of the technology jobs at the state’s pre-eminent companies are rooted in an understanding of computer science. Recent legislation introduced in Olympia, sponsored by Rep. Hansen, seeks to change this. (HB1472: Providing initiatives to improve and expand access to computer science education.)
“Many Microsoft employees were lucky enough to experience a computer science course in high school,” said Brad Smith, executive vice president at Microsoft and a board member of Washington STEM. “Unfortunately too few students today have access to computer science courses in their schools. We must enable more schools to offer these career-enhancing courses and actively encourage more students to take them.”
Poll respondents also strongly supported the new Common Core State Standards and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards. The Common Core, developed by 46 states, are standards that provide a deeper understanding of key concepts in math and English-language arts and require practical, real-life application of knowledge that prepares students for success in work and life. The Next Generation Science Standards are similar but focused on science.
Gov. Jay Inslee has embraced improving STEM education as a part of his plan to create jobs in Washington state, which ranks first in the country in the concentration of STEM jobs but lacks the homegrown candidates to fill many of those positions. An estimated 30,000 STEM jobs will go unfilled in the next five years due to a lack of qualified candidates. Bipartisan leaders in the state legislature, led by Rep. Maxwell and Sen. Litzow, have rallied around the governor’s call to action. (The accompanying bills are SB5755 and HB1872.)
Key findings from the statewide survey include:
92 percent agree the next generation of Washingtonians will have more opportunities if they have strong STEM skills.
83 percent agree an increased focus on STEM education will improve the state’s economy.
79 percent agree more companies will move to or expand to Washington if the state had a reputation for workers with great science and math skills.
78 percent agree STEM skills are in increasing demand in Washington’s economy.
42 percent think the quality of STEM education in Washington is high.
56 percent think Washington colleges and universities are doing a good job of preparing students for careers in STEM fields.
77 percent agree computer science should count as a math or science credit rather than an elective course.
80 percent support Common Core State Standards.
68 percent support adopting Next Generation Science Standards.
The statewide survey of 600 Washington state voters was conducted by Strategies 360 from Jan. 24-31, 2013; it has a margin of error of four percent.
About Washington STEM:
Washington STEM is a statewide nonprofit advancing excellence, equity, and innovation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Launched in March 2011 with support from the business, education, and philanthropic communities, our goal is to reimagine and revitalize STEM education across Washington by investing in and lifting up breakthrough ideas and promising practices. We will be successful when all students in Washington are STEM literate, prepared for and succeed in post-secondary STEM pathways, and obtain family wage-earning jobs. Join us at www.washingtonstem.org
, and pass along the power of STEM on Facebook
and Twitter @washingtonstem