- In an era of decreasing budgets and increasing expectations, school districts need to ask themselves a number of questions as they consider the implementation of new STEM programs and initiatives, Judy Zimny, the vice president of the National Institute for STEM Education, advises in an article for District Administration.
- Administrators need to consider how the initiative is likely to impact students, teachers, the budget and future growth of the district.
- Though the short-term goals of STEM programs are increased knowledge and access to resources, the long-term goal should be to provide a springboard into future college and career opportunities.
As attention to the demand for graduates with STEM skills has increased, school districts have rushed to find ways to implement STEM initiatives in their own districts. This push has sometimes left district administrators with a wide array of tempting and confusing options. Finding the right fit for a school district can be a challenge.Though some initiatives look great on the shelf, they may lose their appeal when school districts try to implement them and find that they don't align well with other next initiatives in the school district.
There is a danger to trying to implement too many initiatives too quickly. New instructional programs not only have a financial cost, but there is also a human cost in terms of the time it takes to learn new expectations and integrate them into an existing structure, which might already be strained. Some teachers may find that a new STEM initiative adds one more ball to juggle alongside the integration of literacy efforts and Common Core standards. That is why administrators need to ask probing questions, such as the ones in the article, before implementing any new initiatives, programs or technology in the classroom.
The creation and use of a district mission statement can aid in these decisions by allowing school administrators to align programs to meet specific goals. It can also help inform decisions about new initiatives and technologies. The goal should be to streamline the process of teaching to meet the needs of students within the framework of the district’s individual situation and available resources.