Yesterday was STEM education day for the Administration. In the morning at a White House Science Fair, President Obama announced he will seek $80 million in the FY13 budget of the Department of Education to help train 100,000 more STEM teachers along with policies to recruit, retain, and reward STEM teachers. The full announcement can be found here.

In the afternoon, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released “Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”, a report focusing on ways to increase the attraction and retention of undergraduates majoring in the STEM fields. During the release, members of PCAST spoke to the difficulties of keeping interested students in the STEM fields particularly when they are not prepared for college level math and when they find the introductory level courses to be “uninspiring”. Additionally, many underrepresented groups leave STEM courses because the atmosphere is unwelcoming.

“PCAST found that economic forecasts point to a need for producing, over the next decade, approximately 1 million more college graduates in STEM fields than expected under current assumptions. Fewer than 40% of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. Merely increasing the retention of STEM majors from 40% to 50% would generate three-quarters of the targeted 1 million additional STEM degrees over the next decade,” according to the introductory letter to the President.

The report listed five recommendations for improving the attraction and retention of undergraduates.

  • Catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices
  • Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory classes with discovery based research courses
  • Launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the math preparation gap
  • Encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversify pathways to STEM careers
  • Create a Presidential Council on STEM Education with leadership from the academic and business communities to provide strategic leadership for transformative and sustainable change in STEM undergraduate education

A fact sheet, executive summary, and the full report are all available as PDFs at the PCAST website.