Voices and Viewpoints

One Nation Under Taught

by Ifeyinwa Onyenekwu / Jan 21, 2015

On February 10 and 24, 2015 PRC with Project Lead the Way (PLTW) will host two webinars on curriculum overview and grant opportunities. As a result, I took the opportunity to review One Nation Under Taught, which was written by the President and Chief Executive Officer of PLTW.

In his book, One Nation Under Taught, Dr. Vince Bertram, President and Chief Executive Officer of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), raises some important issues regarding the United States’ status in global education rankings and the declining number of U.S. students entering STEM fields. Utilizing data from the National Assessment of Education Progress, he reports that test scores find PK-12 students struggle in STEM subjects. Attributing some of these problems to less-than-effective classroom teaching methods, Dr. Bertram encourages educators to make learning interesting and practical for students by incorporating activity-based learning and bringing STEM professionals into classrooms to connect learning to careers.

Bertram explains that STEM careers are in demand and talent is being imported from outside of the U.S. to fill the nation’s skills gap. STEM fields also provide higher wages, Bertram argues, and therefore can help impoverished students experience upward socioeconomic mobility. Moreover, engaging students in STEM fields has the potential to fill America’s workforce needs and stimulate economic growth, while simultaneously improving the lives of the nation’s poor. Bertram posits that if the United States is going to meet the needs of a demanding workforce then we must increase the number of women and racial/ethnic minorities who hold STEM degrees. Supporting his arguments with evidence-based research, Bertram presents solutions that are in concert with current education reform literature. He believes that positive change can happen in PK-12 educational systems and advocates for systematic reform that includes adoption of the Common Core State Standards, recruiting quality teachers, robust teacher training that improves pedagogical style, and expanding the traditional school calendar. Although most of his suggestions are consistent with reforms that have been advocated in the past, this book also cites research documenting that the PLTW curriculum, teacher professional development, and partnerships are successful and effective in promoting increased student learning.

Although Bertram’s book raises numerous important issues, several of his suggestions would require modifications to state education policies. Also, as we work toward increasing the number of women and racial/ethnic minorities in STEM careers, it is essential to provide safe spaces that allows for these individuals’ diversity to be celebrated, supported, and appreciated in the field. Employers must embrace and implement policies and practices that promote an inclusive work environment. In sum, it would be beneficial to read this book and learn more about programs and interventions that have been successful in promoting STEM education reforms. Dr. Bertram brings years of experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and now president and chief executive officer of PLTW. His organization is doing wonderful things and this book is worth the read.

ifeIfeyinwa (Ife) Onyenekwu research focuses on policy and practices impacting the K-20 education system and students’ college readiness. She is particularly interested in understanding how stakeholders connect research to policy and practice.

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