STEM Education Defined

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STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. It is an interdisciplinary approach that helps students succeed in college and in their future careers. The focus of a STEM education is hands-on, problem-based learning.

For the latest research on integrated STEM education, see the National Research Council report STEM Integration in K-12 Education.

Three-minute video from The National Academies on STEM Integration in K-12 Education.

Why is STEM Education So Important to Illinois?

According to the June 2012 report published by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, educational demand for employment has grown and the trend is expected to continue. By 2020, 70% of all jobs in Illinois will require some postsecondary education. Yet according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 2013 Nation's Report Card, only 27% of grade 12 students in Illinois performed at or above the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) proficient level in mathematics; 65% of students performed at or above the NAEP Basic level, resulting in 35% of Illinois graduating high school seniors who perform at levels below basic in mathematics.

Simply put, our students are not graduating from public schools equipped and prepared to continue on to higher education STEM programs or to enter the STEM workforce. Currently, there are more job openings in STEM fields than qualified STEM job seekers. This gap must be closed.

STEM Literacy

A student well-versed and literate in the STEM fields tends to be an innovative and critical thinker. He or she can apply what they’ve learned to real world problems, improving their communities along the way. High school graduates who are literate in STEM, transition seamlessly into their higher education careers in those fields. Ultimately, STEM literacy translates into employment in the increasingly knowledge-based economy we see locally and around the globe. STEM literacy means gainful employment in higher-earning jobs for today and tomorrow’s work force.