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Illinois State Administrators Speak At STEM Education Caucus

This story was written by Andrew Steckling, The Daily Vidette
Two Illinois State Universityadministrators spoke before the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education caucus on Tuesday regarding funding and development of future STEM education.

Rodney Custer, associate vice president for research, graduate and international studies and Jenny Daugherty, managing director of the Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology, were contacted and invited to speak on behalf of the STEM coalition.

The main objective of the STEM Education caucus is to promote and educate the four aspects of STEM in any means possible, including primary and secondary schools, higher education and the workforce.

According to the STEM Coalition Web site, the group is composed of over 350 groups representing the full spectrum of the technological workforce, including teachers, scientists, experts and technicians.

Custer noted that the Boston Museum of Science was very involved in the testimony.

"One of their [museum] lobbyists is well connected and knows plenty of people across the country. Naturally, she called and invited Jen and I to go," he said.

According to Daugherty, the emphasis of the testimony was to inform Congress about the initiative to increase technology and engineering-related programs in classrooms. She said the coalition focused on research and important issues addressed in the current petition during their testimony.

"If you look at a high school, there is currently three to four years of required math and/or science, but where's the requirement for engineering and technology?" Daugherty said. "Our goal was to emphasize that all four are equally important in a present day education.

"We want to make sure the T-E is well represented."

In order to represent these programs, Daugherty said that funded programs and activities would be implemented to help integrate the full aspect of STEM.

Currently, according to Custer, six states require engineering and technology education for graduation. He said this program is extremely beneficial to the literacy of the population.

"Participation in a democracy rests fundamentally on having an informed citizenry. It is very important that citizens have a level of STEM literacy so that they will know how things are designed and made, and, more important, be able to help shape public policy," Custer said.

"In order for America to continue to contribute to innovation on a global scale, it's going to be important to develop more STEM professionals. This is particularly important for minorities and women, which are underrepresented in the STEM careers."

Custer said that America particularly needs more STEM education among the K-12 levels in order to move students into pipelines for certain careers.

"If we are able to teach professional development to teachers in these areas around the country, with the emphasis going towards technology and engineering, it will help these kids gain opportunities for bigger and better things as they grow."