STEM Education and The “Other” Education

This post has been updated on 8/15. See information at the end of the post.


STEM is a ubiquitous term that is used in … everywhere. After it was mentioned at the MUFSD BOE meeting I wanted to learn more about the origins, general development, and what it means in our local environment. Both kids being at their camps allowed me to use my quiet time for some summer reading and data compilation. Let me share basics.

The acronym was coined a long time ago when the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math were grouped together. The following link will take you to as little politically charged article as there can be. It explains the basics and genealogy. Other articles you most likely find (top entries from a search) will be dealing with current trends, policies, role of STEM in education, etc. And that means politics. Such articles concentrate on education and use expression “STEM Education”.

STEM education

STEM Education

This expression is used by education reformers, and politicians to boost the attention to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the United States. The policy leaders are creating and disseminating stories (amplified by media) that make us think that the U.S. is doomed, and that the only way out of the mess is to start training a hundred thousand teachers to be super-STEM teachers, with the purpose of training more teachers in their buildings (turnkey training). That way, Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” plan can become a reality: to prepare millions of STEM graduates.

According to Next Generation Science Standards (fromerly Achieve Inc.), the number one reason for the need of new science standards is that other countries are starting to file more patent applications with the U.S. Patent Office, bringing our percentage down, and that the United States’ ranking in high-tech exports is lower than before.

According to research (2007) done by Rutgers Professor Hal Salzman, there was no shortage of science and technology graduates. In fact, Salzman concluded that there were two to three qualified graduates for each science/tech opening. He continued the research and few years later (2012) reconfirmed his finding. No Shortage of Qualified American STEM Grads (5/25/12). NPR’s recent segment Are There Too Many Ph.D.s And Not Enough Jobs? is another example contradicting all the stories promoted by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, David Welch, Reed Hastings, Arne Duncan, et al.

STEM Education In Local Environment

The Doshi* STEM program on Long Island is organized by Nassau BOCES that developed the program in collaboration with SUNY. Services are provided by Long Island High School for the Arts (LIHSA), a magnet school located in Syosset. (Following the link to find details about the program will facilitate better understanding of the post). The program started in September 2013 with 50 students and will expand to 200. It costs only $7,400/year/student thanks to subsidies from AU Foundation. School districts involved in the program receive additional aid from the state. The LIHSA currently lists school districts of Baldwin, Hicksville, Malverne, Oyster Bay, Uniondale, Westbury as participating in the program.

Students are introduced to the program in 7th grade and they go through a selection process in 8th grade. The requirements are available at the LIHSA website. In September 2013, MUFSD residents allocated necessary funds when four students were enrolled. This year, the enrollment expands to a total of 9 students. Students spend 4 mornings a week at the LIHSA, returning to Malverne HS by bus shortly after 11 o’clock. According to the APPR regulations the students will be tested at the LIHSA, but the results will reflect on the Malverne HS teachers.

More students will gradually enroll and more schools will offer the program. Before LIHSA was designated to provide the Doshi STEM program, Jericho school district was a strong contender for establishing the program within their existing school. Even if the hype and megalomaniac ambitions surrounding the STEM education are put aside, the Doshi STEM is an amazing program that meets the 21st century expectations. Parents should not worry about job availability 10 years down the line. The students will have a life-lasting experience.

STEM Education vs. Non-STEM Education

It’s the “other” parents who should worry. As more students will be enrolling in the STEM education, the hype, megalomania, and “go with the flow” attitude of local leaderships will take their toll. This lethal combination will siphon funds from students who are not STEM-bound. As talented and passionate as their STEM peers, those students will gradually become a second class, forgotten, and continue to be stuck in between the walls of their local high schools separated from the real world. The smaller the school usually means less opportunities offered.

On a limited scale, there are foundations supporting the “other” disciplines and there are private, private-public, and public schools that offer world-class education. For example, the LIHSA offers more excellent programs [download their 2014-15 catalog] that are attended by students from various districts. Also, informed and connected parents are joining forces with lead learners in efforts to create the best opportunities with whatever funding is available. (About that in some coming post). The corporate America in charge of US education even doesn’t pretend to be planning world-class programs for non-STEM-bound students.

What do you think? Are students in non-STEM disciplines entitled to use their community share to enter world-class programs?

* Named in honor of the benefactors Dr. Leena Doshi and her husband Nitin Doshi, founders of Doshi Diagnostic Imaging, Diagnostic Imaging Group, and AU Foundation. They originally planned to open a full-day STEM charter school on the campus of SUNY College at Old Westbury. The AU Foundation donated $1M in development of the LIHSA program.

Update: Shortly I published the post Dave Greene, staff member of WISE Services alerted me to the fact that they have been creating individualized programs for HS seniors for the past 20 years. I encourage you to visit their website.



STEM Education and The “Other” Education — 4 Comments

  1. Where do I get information on STEM Education to present to my school board in Suffolk County?

  2. What exactly is the “selection process” and who facilitates the “selection process”? How are parents informed about these and other opportunities? Jan, thanks for your commitment to informing the parents.

    • Bea, I contacted Ms. Ricca, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Educational Services, to confirm few facts before I posted the article, but I didn’t ask for step by step instructions. Based on our discussion I concluded the selection process is a concerted effort of the parents, district, and LIHSA. The final decision is made by the LIHSA or BOCES that is in charge of the program. I recommend parents interested in program to contact Ms. Ricca directly.