Detroit News guest editorial: Mich. could lead in STEM certification

The following opinion editorial was printed by the Detroit News on April 8, 2015. The piece can also be read online at: www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/04/08/sens-pavlov-proos-stem/25419401.

Proos, Pavlov: Mich. could lead in STEM certification

Michigan has one of the nation’s most comprehensive sets of high school graduation requirements, designed to set high goals for our students and to help them reach those goals.

Since their implementation, graduation rates have risen, dropout rates have fallen and test scores have improved.

But in the most recent international student assessment, the U.S. remained behind the world in student achievement. In fact, our students were outperformed by those in 29 nations and provinces in math; by 22 in science; and by 19 in reading.

We have long supported an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in our schools, because these robust areas of study are critical to the future of our nation and in preparing future generations for success.

These fields are some of the most rigorous education paths a person can take. Unfortunately, not nearly enough minds are being applied to them.

Computer science and engineering majors still account for less than 1 of every 10 college degrees in the U.S., while the demand for employees with these skills continues to grow each year.

We need to support children who desire to become scientists, engineers and mathematicians. It is vital to important industries, such as defense and automotive industries, that we have bright minds entering these fields.

We also recognize that education is not one-size-fits-all. That is why we have worked hard to ensure that our students can pursue the path that best challenges them and meets their needs and goals for their education and career.

STEM education, along with other worthwhile pursuits, plays an important role in that effort.

We have joined together with Rep. Amanda Price to introduce legislation to help give Michigan students a leg up on getting a job in a high-skilled career or continuing their education.

Our measures would allow a student, who wishes it, to receive a STEM certification on their high school diploma. The endorsement would also be visible on student transcripts for future technical training, community college and college application review.

Michigan could be the first state to institute such a STEM certification opportunity.

The measures build on a newly enacted law that strongly encourages schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or an industry-recognized professional certificate.

We are proud that our state is giving students a chance to focus their study on these key fields, and this certification is an excellent way to highlight a student’s accomplishments.

STEM education keeps all Michigan’s rigorous academic and testing standards and requirements, while giving students the opportunity to go above and beyond these requirements.

Both the new law and this new initiative are part of an ongoing effort to ensure all students are given the education they need to be successful, obtain a well-paying job and lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.

We’ve achieved much to build a stronger, more vibrant Michigan. Nearly 400,000 private sector jobs have been created in four years and unemployment has been reduced by more than half, from a high of 14.2 percent in 2009 to 5.9 percent today — the lowest it has been since 2001.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be more than 250,000 STEM-related jobs in Michigan in the next two years.

While our future is bright, we still face challenges. Our initiative is the next step in ensuring that we help prepare Michigan students for success and also meet the skilled workforce needs of a growing economy.

By giving students this certification option, we will encourage them to pursue difficult subject matters that will enrich their lives, our state and our nation.

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, represents the 21st District.

State Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, represents the 25th District.