STEM in California

From Silicon Valley to San Diego, California is a global hub for innovation. The fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are among the fastest growing, and jobs in these fields are expected to increase 19% over the next decade. Further, San Diego is ranked the third best city in the nation for STEM jobs. Even though many of the world’s most innovative companies are located within California, results from the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress place California among the lowest five performing states in math and science proficiency. Nonetheless, our students are not graduating from high school prepared to continue on to higher education STEM programs or enter the STEM workforce. So how do we better prepare students to meet the STEM job demands here locally? We must first address the current state of STEM education in our schools and how we are preparing our students to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Secondly, in order to ignite a curiosity and interest in STEM fields, we need to look at the support we can provide our students outside the classroom such as group tutoring, one-on-one lessons, enrichment classes, and summer camps.

What is the current state of K-12 STEM education?

To address low test scores in math, California has adopted new math curriculum standards known as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and schools within San Diego County are now implementing these new math standards in the classroom. According to The Foundation for Excellence in Education, the new CCSS will require students to “accurately calculate equations, understand concepts not just memorize answers, and accurately select the best mathematical concept or equation to solve real-world problems, while demonstrating why the method or equation they selected was accurate.So instead of teaching students to simply solve problems, we are training our students to become logical thinkers and problem solvers. 

Even though schools are taking drastic steps to improve student understanding in math, what about Science, Technology, and Engineering?  Most of our local schools offer a range of math and science classes, but technology and engineering do not fall into our schools’ traditional curriculum. One of the key problems with the current state of K-12 STEM education is that even though STEM fields are deeply intertwined in the real-world, STEM subjects are being taught separately.  Students may certainly excel in one of these subjects, but without integrating their knowledge with other subjects, we fail to provide real-world context.

What is being done to enhance STEM Education?

In 2012 the Obama Administration announced an initiative to increase the number of undergraduates who receive degrees in STEM by 1 million over the next decade.  This initiative is designated as a Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal and is a collaboration between the Federal Government, academia, industry, foundations, and other partners in the education community.  President Obama has said that “science and innovation are key components to a strong American economy and that increasing opportunities for young Americans to gain STEM skills can both create jobs and enhance our national competitiveness. Advances in STEM education are important for our Nation’s ability to “manufacture better and smarter products, improve health care, develop cleaner and more efficient energy sources, preserve the environment, safeguard our national security, and grow our economy.” This goal has gained further support and was announced in the 2015 Federal Budget.

One of the key CAP Goal Initiatives is to address the STEM preparation gap that students face when they arrive to college.  In order to better prepare our students to be successful in their first year of college, one of the sub-goals of the STEM Education initiative is to improve K-12 STEM Education.  The key factors underlying this sub-goal are to support teacher preparation efforts that encourage the use of evidence-based STEM learning opportunities and to increase authentic STEM experiences for teachers.  By exposing our teachers to STEM-based trainings, we may be able to increase the support that our teachers are able to give our students.

To further increase our efforts of integrating STEM subjects in schools, California is in the process of adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The implementation of NGSS will occur over several years and is expected to be fully adopted by 2017.  These standards will increase the integration of STEM subjects in K-12 classrooms and “help provide students an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world.

How do we further support our children in STEM?

The Government is putting a lot of effort into increasing STEM literacy among our youth, but how do we further support those students who are interested in STEM fields?  One statistic has shown that fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college expecting to major in a STEM field actually complete a STEM degree.  So if we have students who are interested in STEM fields, how do we inspire them to move forward and pursue a STEM career?  Most students are inspired from a young age through experiences that leave a lasting impression.  There are a number of avenues that students can pursue in order to discover their passion for STEM fields.  Such avenues include clubs at school, after school programs, enrichment classes, one-on-one and group tutoring, and summer camps. The Inspired Mind Learning Center is unique in that our program focuses on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math to further broaden a student’s perspective on often difficult subjects.  Using project-based learning in our Fusion Lab, students are exposed to real-world problems where they are encouraged to use their critical thinking and problem solving skills to decipher the task at hand. We hope to see you stop by our center soon to take a look for yourself!


  1. www.cslnet.org/our-agenda/what-is-stem

  2. www.economicmodeling.com/2012/05/17/joel-kotkin-best-cities-for-tech-jobs

  3. www.nces.ed.gov

  4. www.corestandards.org

  5. www.whitehouse.org

  6. www.performance.gov

  7. www.nextgenscience.org


Author Bio

Dr. Ashlee Lain received her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine and is the Director of The Inspired Mind Leaning Center in Rancho Bernardo, CA.



06/08/2015 6:18am

The field of STEM is not only one of the fastest growing, but also one of the highest paid fields. I think it's connected to small amount of specialists in this field. That's why supporting children for studying STEM is a great investment in future of science and technologies.

06/24/2015 2:13am

Thanks for sharing helpful information, I really like your all post. I will bookmark your blog for future updates.

I also want to prepare myself for the next generation

I was looking enhance STEM Education but by sharing this post you made this job easy

08/04/2015 4:00am

Your article I learned a lot of things, thank you

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