Oklahoma is considered one of the premiere states for STEM education and Sen. Ron Sharp wants to expand it further. He has filed Senate Bill 880 to further advance STEM education by moving oversight of the STEM Region/Community application subcommittee from the Coalition for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education in Oklahoma (CASMEO) to the Department of Career and Technology Education.
“The purpose of STEM education is to prepare students for future careers in the core essential areas of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Sharp. “With its emphasis on job certification, Oklahoma’s CareerTech is the logical agency to develop future STEM Regions and Communities throughout our state; and I applaud them for stepping forward to take on this task.”
The Shawnee Republican played a key role in strengthening STEM in the state in 2014 when he authored and got signed into law legislation creating the criteria for designation of STEM Regions and Communities.
CASMEO Director Ben Robinson said SB 880 will help grow STEM education and was pleased that CareerTech agreed to take over the program.
“Oklahoma’s STEM program has been tremendously successful and growing so fast that our coalition simply doesn’t have the means to continue overseeing it so we are thrilled that CareerTech has volunteered to take it over so this important program doesn’t lose momentum,” said Robinson. “Having our statewide network of career technology centers now promoting our STEM Community initiative, we will be able to reach more communities, help more students and create, benefit and engage more industry and education partnerships.”
Dr. Marcie Mack, Executive Director of CareerTech said her agency will continue doing all they can to continue the growth of STEM education throughout the state.
“In Career and Technology Education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics is integrated throughout our courses. From agricultural education and computer sciences to construction trades and manufacturing, various components of STEM instruction occurs,” said Mack. “STEM education is critical to the development and success of Oklahoma's workforce. CareerTech has been and will continue to facilitate the growth and development of STEM education to benefit our state’s economy.”
Tulsa was the first to form a STEM Community in the state. There are currently seven total and four more in the process of earning the designation. A STEM Community can be formed by either a school district or within a city as a 501 (3)(c) to provide STEM education opportunities.
The Gordon Cooper Technology Center in Shawnee was the first to form a STEM Region under the 2014 legislation. Forming STEM Regions allow career techs to provide STEM education within the counties they serve.
Gordon Cooper Technology Center Superintendent Marty Lewis helped draft the 2014 STEM legislation and praised the success of Oklahoma’s STEM program.
“Since the passage of the original STEM Community legislation, so many entities have redoubled their efforts to provide greater STEM opportunities for students throughout the state. More K-12 students are taking rigorous science and math coursework. We have more technology centers partnering with our K-12 schools through tremendous pre-engineering, biomedical, and biotech programs. We have literally thousands of elementary, middle and high school students engaged in coding and various forms of STEM-related, project-based learning. And our colleges and universities are renewing their focus on the high-demand, high-wage STEM majors leading to improved outcomes,” explained Lewis. “All of this has happened in part to the excitement and enthusiasm created by the original STEM Community legislation. This change will serve to create even greater results for the future of our students, our communities and our state.”