Behning: Engaging students in STEM subjects

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, February 9, 2018 1:30 pm

By 2022, there will be more than 1 million job openings in Indiana that need to be filled in high-wage, high-skilled areas. Many of these jobs will require a solid background in science, technology, engineering or math. To better prepare Hoosier students to fill these job positions, we must ensure they have a strong foundation in STEM subjects before they leave school.

Too often, I hear kids say they don’t like their math or science classes, and most teachers will admit that a majority of their students are not enthusiastic about these subjects. Many states have created content-area specialist licenses, so educators who are both passionate about these areas and experts in a specific subject or field can better engage students. It’s readily apparent that this is especially critical in the case of STEM classes. I have a proposal that would create an optional elementary school teacher content area license in Indiana. Increasing our focus in math and science would prepare students for higher-level math courses, which are oftentimes stumbling blocks in higher education.

Another piece of legislation would provide licensure flexibilities to allow highly qualified industry professionals to work in classrooms as teachers. These experts typically have first-hand experience in their career field, and also have a new-found calling to teach and mentor young people. Recruiting professionals to engage students can ignite a passion for a career path they hadn’t considered before. As I visit schools in our community and across the state, one of the struggles many schools face is finding qualified educators to fill STEM teaching positions. It is my hope that these two licensure proposals can help recruit and retain educators in these fields.

I also have a bill that would give local school corporations the opportunity to collaborate and drive student success. Under this legislation, 4 to 8 school districts could form a coalition to develop innovative education plans to put students on a path to success. These schools would be able to request flexibility from some state laws and State Board of Education rules that may hinder innovation. With these much-needed flexibilities, schools could partner with local businesses, for example, to provide internships, apprenticeships and other work-based education opportunities. Having schools come together and find innovative ways to prepare students for life after high school could give us models that schools across the state can consider, adopt and utilize.

The legislative session just passed the halfway point. The House of Representatives is now considering Senate bills, while the Senate is debating our House bills. To keep track of bills moving through the legislative process, visit iga.in.gov.  If you have any questions or input about any of the legislation we are considering for new laws, please contact me at 317-232-9643 or h91@iga.in.gov. You can also sign up to receive my weekly e-newsletter at www.in.gov/h91.

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State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) represents portions of Hendricks and Marion counties.

Behning serves as the chair of the House Committee on Education.

A high-resolution photo of Behning can be downloaded by clicking here.