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Letter from Laura Overdeck, Chair of the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network

 

I feel both proud and lucky to have been born and raised in the Garden State. But now that all three of my kids attend school here, I feel an even greater sense of urgency about improving the state of education in New Jersey and the future life opportunities for our nearly 1.4 million K-12 students. That is why, when Secretary Hendricks asked me to chair New Jersey’s STEM Pathways Network, I jumped at the opportunity.

New Jersey has a rich history of innovation and creativity that has changed the quality of life not only in our state, but across the United States and the world. From Thomas Edison’s many patents, to Einstein’s theory of relativity, to the decades of lifesaving drugs produced by our pharmaceutical and biotech companies, New Jersey has been at the leading edge of innovation for well over 100 years. Let’s ensure that this rich tradition continues and that our children have a chance to be part of it.

Job prospects for future New Jerseyans look strong over the next 10 years, with STEM jobs projected to grow at 11 percent and pay much more than many other jobs1.  We need to be sure that our educational system will improve the economic prospects of our state while preparing our children for future opportunities.

To be ready, we need to increase the number of computer science degrees that are awarded in New Jersey, which have seen the largest decline in the country – 60% since 20032. Women earn only 22% of engineering degrees awarded in New Jersey, while underrepresented minorities earn only 11%2. Women and underrepresented minorities must have a fair chance to work in STEM fields.

Between 2003 and 2013, New Jersey continually improved its 8th grade NAEP math scores. We need to make sure that upward trend continues in the years ahead.

I see the STEM Pathways Network as a way to help ensure all our children can reach their full academic potential.  As one of the first large-scale initiatives of our group, we are excited to announce the launch of four NJ STEM Learning Ecosystems across our state. This White House-backed national initiative connects STEM resources within and across local districts, so K-12 schools, after-school programs, universities, museums, other learning centers, and corporations can work together to build and reinforce our students’  STEM and 21st Century skills. In that way, we can help our students thrive in a fast-paced technological world.

I encourage you to explore this groundbreaking initiative. If you are not located within one of our ecosystems, please get in touch with your local principal or school board member to urge them to join this initiative.  In order for our children to succeed, we all need to get involved.  I hope you will join me in this effort.

 

Sincerely,

Laura Overdeck

Chair, New Jersey STEM Pathways Network

Founder & President, Bedtime Math Foundation

Chair, Overdeck Family Foundation

 

Sources:
1.     Economic Modeling Specialists International, 2015
2.     U.S. Department of Education, 2001-2013