Free K-12 Education Essay Sample
K-12 education is a term used in the United States, Canada, and other countries as a short form for public-supported school grades prior to college. The grades are Kindergarten (K) and first through the twelfth grade (1-12). PK-12 is on occasion used to complement pre-kindergarten (Presidential Communications Development & Strategic Planning Office, 2012). The k-12 program is meant to provide enough time for mastery of concepts and skills, prepare graduates for further education, and develop lifelong learners, skill development, entrepreneurship, and employment. After experiencing the k-12 program, every graduate is expected to be equipped with technology skills, innovative skills, effective communication skills and career and life skills (Gale, 2005).
High-quality education is a prerequisite for success in today’s global economy. Educational achievement and economic progress are linked and educating every student to graduate from high school and possibly go to college is essential. In the United States, President Obama has made reforms toward providing complete and competitive education to every student (White House, 2015). The reforms have been formed around four major objectives:
Higher standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and their careers.
Ambitious efforts to recruit, develop, prepare and advance effective teachers especially in the classrooms where they are most needed.
Smarter data systems to measure the students’ growth and success and help educators improve teaching and learning.
New attention and national effort to turn around low-achieving schools.
One of the areas that the United States’ government has focused to improve the k-12 education is the integration of STEM disciplines in the program. The integration of Science, Technology, engineering, and mathematics has received more attention over the past decade. New instruction materials, programs, and special schools are emerging. Advocates of this integration approach argue that integrating these disciplines and teaching them in the context of real-world issues will make them more relevant to students and teachers. The integration is said to enhance student’s motivation for learning and improve student interests, persistence, and achievement. It will not only help students get ready for college and their workplaces but will also increase the number of students that will consider pursuing careers in these fields (National Academy of Sciences, 2014).
Science is the study of the natural world, the laws of nature in association with physics, chemistry, and biology. It also includes the treatments and the application of facts, concepts, and principles associated with these disciplines. Science encompasses knowledge accumulated over time and also processes that generate new knowledge. It is the knowledge of science that also informs the engineering design process. Technology is not a strict discipline like science, but it is made up of an entire system of organizations and people, knowledge, processes, and devices. Throughout history, people have created technology to satisfy their needs and wants. Modern technology is mostly a product of science and engineering and tools that are used in both fields.
Engineering involves the design and creation of human-made products, and it is used to solve problems. The major constraint in engineering is science or the laws of nature. Other constraints include time, money, ergonomics, manufacturability, environmental regulations and reparability. Engineering uses the concepts of science and mathematics and technological tools. Mathematics is the study of patterns and the relationships among numbers, quantities, and space. In mathematics, claims are proved through logical arguments based on foundational assumptions. Just like science, knowledge in mathematics continues to grow but the knowledge in mathematics is not overturned. Some of the mathematics concepts in the k-12 program include algebra, numbers and arithmetic, geometry and statistics and probability. Science, technology, and engineering all use mathematics in some way (National Academy of Sciences, 2014).
Despite the increased attention to STEM integration, there remains some confusion about the individual subjects, their combination and even what exactly constitutes STEM. Recently, there has been raised interest in whether considering the disciplines together would have more gain instead of looking at them separately in both teaching and learning. A majority of specialized schools and programs have kept addressing the subjects independently. Further attempts have occurred in pursuit of creating links within the subjects. NRC committees believe that knowledge in science integrates mind behaviors with knowledge attainment (National Academy of Sciences, 2014). One of the committees recommended teaching science should include four scientific proficiencies as framework. They include:
Create and assess scientific justifications and evidence.
Grasp the dimensions and advancement of scientific knowledge.
Productively participate in scientific practices.
People backing integrated approaches saw the various specialized practices, which instigated the emphasis on specific disciplines undergo transformations in places of work and research settings. A number of everyday problems ordinarily require several disciplines. For instance, successful conservation of uncontaminated water and the ecosystem necessitates tools and a working understanding the disciplines in STEM. Connections in the STEM disciplines spread out of the workplace. The daily matters affecting people compel them to adopt solutions dependent on skills and knowledge that are STEM-related. The advocates of these approaches assert that benefits of integration are motivation and learning.
Integration efforts of the STEM study fields have been there for a while. For instance, since 1901, talks about integration in the School Science and Mathematics Association have occurred. The value of STEM integration outside mathematics and science got recognized almost two decades ago. That happened in the launch of the education reform movement. There is an absence of research into how to create connections that link STEM disciplines and learning experience designs. Advocates of integration are not certain that integration of these disciplines will significantly improve the students’ learning, retentions, achievements and other outcomes. The National Academy of Engineering and the Board of Science Education organized a team that was to study the attempts to link the various disciplines in the K-12 program. The committee also discussed ways to develop research agendas that will offer data required for such efforts (National Academy of Sciences, 2014).
A study committee was tasked with identifying and characterizing approaches to STEM education integration. The committee recognized various variables that could be incorporated into a descriptive framework. Data gathered in these projects showed that there are five major goals for students and two for teachers. The goals for students include STEM literacy, 21st century competence, interest, and engagement, workforce readiness and ability to make links in the disciplines of STEM. The goals for educators included increased STEM content knowledge and increased pedagogical content knowledge. The goals are usually framed in a way that supports assessment of students learning outcomes. Some of the goals are focused on encouraging young people to enter STEM careers to increase their interest in STEM disciplines.
Outcomes of an integrated Stem Education
Outcomes for some goals are difficult and impractical to measure, for example, STEM literacy. It includes different elements and measuring the integrated educational experience may be problematic. Individual aspects of STEM literacy like understanding certain concepts or awareness of how the disciplines shape our world are measurable outcomes. Development of 21st century competence has multiple components such as better communication skills. The outcomes of these elements are likely to be tied to individual components and not the overall concept.
Nature and scope of integration
There exist three elements that determine the nature and the scope of integration. They include a type of STEM connections, disciplinary emphasis and duration, size and complexity of the initiative. STEM education brings together concepts from more than one discipline and may connect a concept from one discipline to a practice of another. In STEM education at times, one subject is more dominant. The inclusion of practices from another subject is intended to support learning and understanding in the targeted subject.
Integrated STEM education initiatives show a variety of relevant parameters such as duration, size, setting and complexity. Complexity varies from efforts that are designed to be plugged into an established curriculum to those that strive to design a new integrated learning experience. The scope and nature of integration are directly related to the time and resources needed for implementation. The acceptance or resistance levels to the initiatives and the types of outcomes that may be expected create a challenge of measuring them.
There exist factors to be considered in the implementation of the integrated STEM education. The committee focuses on instructional design, educator supports and adjustments to the learning environment. The programs reviewed a variety of approaches to teaching from traditionally highly structured direct instruction to methods. Adjustment to learning environment may include extended class periods and to allow students time to repeat experiments and improve a design.
Role of Teachers
Measuring Improvements to the k-12 education system
There are certain indicators that provide evidence of successful k-12 education. The goal of the National Center for Education Statistics is to generate information that will help education leaders, researchers and policy makers improve and understand state and local systems. The proposed indicators do not mention different student populations. The aim is to equally access resources and learning opportunities to all students.
The first indicator is the number and enrollment of different types of STEM schools and programs. The indicator is meant to measure the extent to which students can pursue some focused experience as part of k-12 education. The indicator includes several STEM schools, STEM-focused careers and programs as defined in STEM integrated education. When measuring the time devoted to these disciplines, it is important to include the opportunities that different schools provide their students to engage in learning in class and beyond class time. The opportunities vary widely and may include field trips, science camps, and competitions. Determining the adequacy of time and resources is difficult and might include an analysis of the quality of time and relationships.
Another indicator is the time allocated to teaching science in grades k-5. The indicator measures the time a teacher devotes to teaching science. The measures for this mostly rely on the data teachers report. Additional research is needed to access the reliability of these indicators. Additional research might also be required to measure the time devoted to science even when science gets taught in the perspective of other subjects.
Measuring the science-related learning opportunities in elementary schools is also an indicator. It is intended to reflect the range of opportunities that are provided to students. It includes an examination of the classroom experiences, the out-of-school opportunities, and the provision to enhance science offerings to students. Career and technical education are crucial in preparing students for STEM-related careers including those in computer science, information technology and health fields (National Academy of Sciences, 2013).
The integration of STEM disciplines is essential for great outcomes in the k-12 education. In order to make this initiative more successful, there are a few things that should be considered and also addressed. First it is important that all educators understand how necessary it is to have this integration in order to take part in the initiative. Right from when teachers are students they should be taught on the importance of the disciplines in the students’ life even after school and in their careers. By training teachers, they can come up with innovative ways to help schools and the education system make this integration successful.
Parents should also be made part of this plan. Most parents usually have a path set out for their children and at times they do not think that focusing on science subjects or other related disciplines is important for them. Parent should be informed that, even though, their children do not end up having careers related to these disciplines, it is important to study them. Some of the knowledge and skills acquired from learning these disciplines are important in tackling the day-to-day challenges. Also, educating parents will help eliminate the stereotypes that most children grow up having about the subjects.
In September 2010, President Obama helped in launching Change the Equation, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education in the United States. In the first year, Change the Equation accomplished a few goals. They expanded STEM education programs to different sites in the country. They also developed a toolkit for CEO local action that empowers CEOs to advocate in communities where they were the largest employers for STEM reforms. They created a new blueprint advising companies on how they can create and invest in STEM programs.
President Obama believes that teaching is a great part of any child’s success. In the STEM fields, it is important to create educational experiences that are project-based in order to build a lifelong learning. The President challenged the nation to recruit 100,000 effective teachers in the next decade. More than 150 foundations and companies have all come together to lead 100kin10. It is a coalition that is focused on reaching the president’s goal. The coalition has taken action by increasing the supply of STEM teachers, hiring and retaining STEM teachers and building the 100kin10 movement. The administration has also recently announced the creation of STEM Master Teachers Corps. It is meant to engage a talented group of STEM teachers across the country in providing the best practices and effective professional development (White House, 2013).
The government also knows that it cannot maintain innovation if it does not broaden the participation of STEM to all women, girls and minorities. The administration has, for this reason, taken steps to increase the participation of these groups. It has increased its focus on underrepresented groups by supporting certain initiatives such as Change the Equation. The government has also attempted to expose more girls and young women to STEM fields. They have done this through innovative arrangements such as NASA/Girl Scouts partnership, the Department of Energy’s Women in STEM mentoring program. Exposing more girls and women has also required the inclusion of more agencies across the administration to gain hands-on experience and guidance in navigating the STEM subjects.
The government has also attempted to set high standards using exceptional role models. The president has selected a number of brilliant women to head the science and technology administrative positions. It shows a recognition for the need for more women champions and role models in the STEM fields. The administration has also attempted to promote technology inclusion. In 2013, the White House called technology innovators to work together to ensure young people especially those from underrepresented communities can study STEM subjects and participate in technology career fields.
The STEM integration is important in securing the future of children education and the country’s economy. The implementation and design of the curriculum infusing the four STEM subjects have produced various teaching models and practices making it challenging to gauge the effectiveness of the program. Integration of the k-12 STEM education proposes a framework to provide the perspective and vocabulary and to investigate specific initiatives within the k-12 education system. Educating students in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology field not only prepares them for future careers but also boosts the country’s economy in the right direction. Numerous initiatives are being formed to support this integration, and they are focused on the future of the global economy. We must prepare our future leaders to ensure the next generation leads us to better positions. The best way to do this is providing great education backgrounds for all children regardless of their backgrounds.
Gale, L. (2005). K-12. Retrieved from http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/K-12
National Academy of Sciences. (2013). Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education. Retrieved from http://isep.buffalo.edu/documents/MonitoringProgressTowardSuccessfulK-12STEMEducation-ANationAdvancing.pdf
National Academy of Sciences. (2014). STEM Integration in K-12 Education Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Retrieved from http://www.samueli.org/stemconference/documents/ISTEM_NAS_Report.pdf
Presidential Communications Development & Strategic Planning Office. (2012). The K to 12 Basic Education Program. Retrieved from http://www.gov.ph/k-12/
White House. (2013). Educate to Innovate. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12/educate-innovate
White House. (2015). K-12 Education. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12