The Next Frontier: Not just 100,000 excellent STEM teachers, but tackling the root causes of the STEM teacher crisis (post #10)

For those of you just joining the blog, a recap: Over the past six years, 100Kin10 has worked closely with our 280+ best-in-class partner organizations to help them go above and beyond to achieve their 100Kin10 commitments.

To date, the network has experienced significant success, training 40,000 STEM teachers in the first five years of the effort and supporting tens of thousands more to improve their skills and stay in the classroom longer.

In May 2016, we publicly announced that we have collected commitments from our partners to reach the 100,000 teacher goal in 2021. Of course, there is still significant work to be done to realize these commitments, but we feel confident in the network’s collective ability to do so.

There’s a unique opportunity in working toward a goal over the course of a decade. Our strategy gets to evolve as we learn more and build the network’s capacity to act. We also get a clearer view of the hardest challenges and the existing solution set.

As the leadership of 100Kin10 interrogated our successes, we confronted a troubling fact: achieving the commitments and reaching the 100,000 goal is not enough.

Our country and education system face serious, underlying challenges that have made this goal of 100,000 new, excellent STEM teachers so intractable in the first place. The individual commitments, powerful though they are, too often represent individual work-arounds to those challenges.

We realized that if we got to 2021 having only placed 100,000 STEM teachers into classrooms, it’d be a very short celebration. Having not fixed the cracks in the foundation of getting and keeping great STEM teachers, we’d need to start all over again recruiting, preparing, and supporting the next 100,000.

So we set out to strategically map the long way forward. With that map, we believed we could chart our course to addressing the root causes head on.

After 2+ years of extensive research with input from thousands of teachers and hundreds of other experts and nearly every 100Kin10 partner organization, we together developed a comprehensive map of the grand challenges and their accompanying root causes:

1. Teaching lacks prestige.

2. Teachers lack solid STEM preparation.

3. Elementary teachers are not supported to teach STEM well.

4. Professional development is used for remediation rather than professional growth.

5. Schools restrict STEM teacher leadership and autonomy.

6. Schools do not value science, technology, and engineering.

7. STEM teachers lack access to good instructional resources.

The map is the best of citizen cartography, each person contributing what they know of why it is so hard to get and keep great teachers, especially in STEM. Together, we created a full map of the landscape that could never have been seen through just one organization’s eyes.

With that panoramic map, and the strength of this network, we are now positioned to take on our hardest effort yet: chipping away directly at the root causes, so that we as a country can do what any civilization ought to: train up our next generation of leaders and citizens with the skills, knowledge, and drive they need.

Moving forward, the grand challenges will guide the network’s organizational priorities and offer direction in activating solutions and driving research. As the hub of this diverse and strong network, we will mobilize our partners to build on their unique strengths to address the challenges by tackling one of the hundred + root causes head-on.

And we are on the cusp of revealing which of these 100+ root causes is a “keystone species”, able to organically influence many other root causes for the better.

TL; DR If you’re interested in the story of how we did this — unfolding over two years, dozens of workshops, 30+ literature reviews, and thousands of data points — read the next post.