STEM Education Summit: Building a Coalition for Attracting and Retaining a Diverse STEM Teaching Workforce

STEM Education Summit: Building a Coalition for Attracting and Retaining a Diverse STEM Teaching Workforce

Demand for talented people trained in STEM disciplines is growing rapidly in the United States. According to the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 (NSB, 2016), between 2008 and 2014 the number of STEM occupations rose by about half a million, whereas the total workforce stayed relatively steady. Yet, minorities are deeply underrepresented in STEM fields, which, in addition to being more plentiful, are also better paid than other jobs. One important contributing factor to the underrepresentation of minority students in STEM fields is the lack of minority STEM teachers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, students of color in 2012 made up more than 45% of PK-12 population, but teachers of color represented only 17.5% of the teacher workforce. Teachers of color also had a 24% higher turnover rate than their white counterparts.

This is simultaneously a challenge and an opportunity. To address this issue, the Smithsonian Science Education Center in collaboration with Shell Oil Company will host a Summit in New Orleans, LA on March 22-24, 2019 to engage leadership teams from promising districts throughout the US who have identified problems of practice related to attracting and retaining a diverse STEM teaching workforce. This Summit will be a highly interactive 2.5 days, with a clear outcome at the end – developing district-specific “action plans” for recruiting and retaining minority STEM teachers to leadership roles while remaining in the classroom.

Application Process

The application process to attend this program is competitive. We are seeking 20 teams from around the country to attend the Summit. The deadline to apply is 11:59 pm ET on December 31, 2018. Preview the application here. Applications will be scored based on the following categories:

  1. Team composition – Teams can be as small as three and as large as five members. Each team must include at least one practicing classroom teacher. Ideally teams will be comprised of a variety of individuals such as administrators, school staff, community members, parents, or local school and government officials including individuals who are empowered to make decisions in your school or district.
  2. Clarity of Idea – Extent to which the submission states the proposed idea for attracting or retaining STEM teachers from diverse backgrounds in a way that is understandable and shows forethought, both in development and implementation.
  3. Range of Impact – The potential impact in and beyond the classroom, school, or district on attracting or retaining STEM teachers from diverse backgrounds. 
  4. Populations Served – The extent to which teachers from traditionally underrepresented populations may be served by the proposed idea.

Teams will be notified of their selection no later than Friday, January 18, 2019, and invited to attend the Summit in New Orleans, LA. Teams who are selected to participate will receive round-trip airfare to New Orleans, lodging, and meals served at the summit paid by Shell Oil Company and arranged by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. Preview what to expect if your team is accepted here.

About the Initiative

This STEM Education Summit is only one component of a larger initiative that began in 2015 when the Smithsonian Science Education Center in partnership with Shell Oil Company convened a group of education organizations from around the nation to share and discuss proven strategies that have improved the recruitment, retention and engagement of educators from diverse backgrounds. From this meeting, a Steering Committee was formed and areas of potential work emerged:

  1. Develop a playbook for district-level systems change.
  2. Implement district-level systems change.
  3. Advance teacher leadership development.

Our ultimate goal for all of the work comprising this Initiative is to diversify the STEM teaching workforce and improve leadership opportunities for diverse STEM teachers through district systems change. We are working to achieve this goal and supporting other like-minded individuals such as those attending the summit through a variety of strategies outlined below.

Attracting diverse candidates to STEM teaching:
Student interest in STEM: 

  • Increase students’ positive experiences with STEM instruction
  • Integrate cultural competency training into existing PD so all teachers can understand and resolve challenges around bias and better serve STEM students from underrepresented populations

Pre-service teacher preparation:

  • Expand recruitment of pre-service teachers from underrepresented populations to STEM teaching via traditional and nontraditional preparation programs

Equitable hiring practices:

  • Train existing administrative leadership to confront implicit biases and adopt inclusive hiring practices

Increasing retention of STEM teachers from underrepresented populations:

  • Increasing leadership opportunities for teachers from underrepresented populations while remaining in the classroom (by serving as mentors, board members, hiring committee members, department chairs, etc.)
  • Increasing promotion opportunities for teachers from underrepresented populations to become administrative leaders
  • Increasing support for in-service STEM teachers from underrepresented populations