STEM education for Washington progresses

OLYMPIA- House Bill 1872 passed through the Senate last Thursday, promising emphasis and funding for STEM education in K-12 schools statewide.

Republicans and Democrats agree that a stronger emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education is needed in Washington. The state’s economy is heavily rooted in science and math based fields. Bill 1872’s prime sponsors want Washington students to be the ones most qualified to inherit these careers. STEM education

Senator Sharon Brown of Kennewick understands the need of STEM education for the tri-cities.

“I see some similarities between the STEM program and the IB [International Baccalaureate] program,” explains Brown, “although the STEM program has a much heavier emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, and that’s … where we really need to have our kids prepared.”

The bill implements a STEM report card, which would track children’s progress over the years. The report card would also provide data on STEM-based job openings statewide, and be available for the public. The bill also promises to partner STEM programs with businesses in the area, so children can learn hands-on in their area of interest. Another section of the bill establishes the STEM Education Innovation Alliance. This alliance will report to the governor’s office with their findings concerning the implementation and progress of STEM-focused learning in schools.

To further ensure the program runs smoothly, a final amendment was made before the bill passed the Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Teachers from elementary, middle, and high school levels will now be a part of the Education Innovation Alliance, as to provide the governor’s office with in-depth, first-hand accounts of what is and isn’t working in the implemented STEM program.

“One of our efforts in STEM education is to make sure that we have representation from elementary, and middle, and high school,” explained Senator McAuliffe of Bothell at the committee meeting, “If you do not excite children at a very early age, you do not have the opportunity to open the door to them on science, technology, engineering, and math programs at a later date, so we need to start very early.”

Governor Inslee was involved with the creation of this bill. This is his first piece of education legislation as governor.

The tri-cities currently has Delta High School as their leading example of STEM education, where science, technology, engineering, and math are implemented into all courses.

“It’s so exciting for me as a parent,” remarks Senator Brown, “and also as a legislator, that we have Delta High in our district.”

Brown recently took a tour of Delta High School, and was amazed at the engagement and respect between the students and teachers. She encourages others to tour the school to help better understand what house bill 1872 will do for the state.

How fast STEM-focused education will filter into schools, or how many schools will adopt this new style of learning, is unknown. The bill is currently being reviewed by the Ways and Means committee, which will determine its revenue value.

You can see the committee’s decision on bill 1872 here.



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