Annual STEM evaluation shows progress

During her years a lieutenant governor, Gov. Kim Reynolds took a leading role in promoting a multifaceted state initiative that is designed to strengthen education in Iowa concerning science, technology, engineering and mathematics — usually referred to by the acronym STEM.

Consequently, it was with a good deal of pride that Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg released the results earlier this month of an independent evaluation of the program’s impact. This assessment was overseen by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. It was conducted by an inter-university consortium that included Iowa State University’s Research Institute for Studies in Education, University of Iowa’s Iowa Testing Program and the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Social and Behavioral Research.

The 200-page report contains much useful information that will help make STEM efforts even more successful in the years ahead. Some of the highlights of this analysis make it clear, however, that much is already being accomplished. Here are some of the positive findings that the governor emphasized regarding the study:

• Students who participated in STEM Scale-Up programs scored an average of three percentage points higher on the Iowa Assessments in math and reading and four percentage points higher in science compared to all students statewide.

• For minority students, the growth was even stronger: six percentage points higher in math and reading and seven percentage points higher in science.

• Students participating in STEM Scale-Up programs were also more interested in someday working in Iowa compared to all students statewide.

• More than 75 percent of all students statewide indicated they were very or somewhat interested in science, technology, engineering or pursing a STEM career.

One of the goals of the state’s STEM project is to develop the workforce skills that will be needed to keep Iowa’s economy thriving in the years ahead. Much yet remains to be done, but the early indications are that the Hawkeye State is on the right track.

The Times-Republican applauds Reynolds and her team as well as the many others across the state who are turning the STEM initiative into a remarkable success story.