Advancing Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Leadership
Feature article

The Virginia STEM Learning Network:
A Catalyst for Advancing Virginia's New Economy

by Amy Sabarre and Jim Egenrieder 

"The Network serves as the catalyst for reaching and inspiring more Virginia students to pursue additional STEM subjects, STEM jobs, STEM certificates and degrees, and STEM careers. " 

STEM-focused teaching and learning is here to stay. STEM education is not just a passing phase in educational practice; it's the foundation for long-term economic drivers in which educators play a critical role in preparing our students for post-secondary education, training, careers, and advanced citizenship.  STEM leaders have a real and immediate opportunity to align good teaching practices with an emphasis on STEM habits of mind that benefit students around the Commonwealth.  This opportunity also advances Virginia's position in the national landscape of STEM and STEM education, considering:
  • Virginia is a national leader in STEM fields; 
  • Virginia has been rated first in the country for high tech jobs[1];
  • Virginia ranks in the top 10% of states for science and engineering degrees obtained[2];
  • In Virginia, the average hourly earnings in STEM-related employment are almost twice that of all other occupations[3]; and,
  • The US Chamber of Commerce named Virginia the Best State for STEM jobs in 2013.[4]
Challenges and Needs
Our Commonwealth and its economy are advantaged by these successes, and our STEM-literate citizens are better able to create, recognize and support wise public policy.    However, in looking to the future, our increasingly global and technology-driven economy and society will require even more purposeful, progressive, systems and pathways from PK-career for all students through STEM education.  We need coordinated support for educators to meet that goal, including:
  • Collaborative or coordinated inventories of STEM Educational programs throughout the Commonwealth;
  • Expanded research identifying successful and scalable model programs; 
  • Teacher-preparation or in-service programs that focus on STEM education;
  • Vetted exemplar STEM curricula integrative within all subject areas; and,
  • Expanded awareness among citizens of all ages of the scope of STEM professions.
The Virginia STEM Learning Network
The grass-roots effort that began among school-based STEM educators in 2014 to create the Virginia STEM Learning Network (VSLN) provides real-world feedback and support for programs and policies directed by advocates in the Department of Education and our new Virginia STEM position in the Governor's office.  This network of teachers, teacher-leaders and allies provides a student-focused and teacher-focused perspective in identifying, collecting, collaboratively developing and sharing resources, ideas, models, and data.  The Network thereby serves as the catalyst for reaching and inspiring more Virginia students to pursue additional STEM subjects, STEM jobs, STEM certificates and degrees, and STEM careers.  


Are You Designing Performance Assessment?

Attend our session with Eric Carbaugh 
on February 11 at Blue Ridge Community College