Advancing STEM Through Real-Time Support in Small School Districts

For many years, standardized test results have painted a disheartening picture of American schools. While the US spends more per pupil than most developed countries, the nation’s test scores fall below international averages for developed countries in math and science. American students are consistently outperformed by their counterparts in Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and the Netherlands, to name a few.

Despite the general lack of interest among American students, demand for scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical—STEM—jobs is high. As those fields become increasingly relevant, more and more of its jobs will require college degrees. According to the Colorado Department of Education, 35% of STEM jobs will call for post-high school training by 2018. Meanwhile, only 14% of current college degrees are awarded in STEM fields.

Children are not to blame for their indifference toward these challenging subject areas. Research indicates that many STEM teachers, especially those in rural school districts, lack degrees or experience in the field they teach. These unqualified teachers lack the knowledge to adequately prepare their students to pursue higher degrees. More importantly, they also lack enthusiasm to inspire the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, inventors, and engineers.

Of course, hiring well-trained educators is an intuitive solution to this rampant problem. Unfortunately, most school districts cannot afford such a costly remedy. Enter Digital Resource Exchange and Market Place, or DREAM. The result of a collaboration of Colorado-based institutions such as eNetColorado (eNet), Colorado Online Learning (COL), and Colorado Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), DREAM is an online portal designed to provide up-to-date and easily accessible resources for STEM teachers and their students.

By partnering with the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), a teaching and research university, DREAM is able to provide educators with access to quality content as well as real time support from CSM’s faculty and graduate students. In addition to increasing the quality of their classes, teachers can use DREAM for their own professional development.

With plans to offer students access to its existing resources as well as new online courses, DREAM will soon become a personalized educational experience. Instant message and video chat capabilities will be added to encourage students to seek direct help from the experts on hand.

Every state is facing the challenge of stubbornly low test scores in STEM subjects. Fortunately, DREAM’s template of an all-inclusive online resource powered by a public university is easy to replicate. By implementing such a program, teachers would receive STEM training, with support from experts always just a click away.

Ultimately however, DREAM’s mission is to enhance American students’ relationship with STEM subjects to help the U.S. catch up to the educational achievements of other developed nations. By providing a collaborative, intuitive, and comprehensive resource for students, DREAM is certainly on the right track.

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