Delta High School, a school with emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math, is big news in Washington State’s Tri-Cities area. To be jointly operated by the three school districts in the region and with support from Battelle and Washington State University, Delta High plans to open with 100 freshmen in September, 2009. I support the development of the school, but not for the reasons cited by the vast majority of its proponents.
The usual argument for a school such as Delta High is that the US is falling behind in the production of scientists and engineers and our schools and colleges do not have the ability to provide curriculum at a level sufficient to meet the demand for high-level instruction. This is a bogus argument, to say the least. Only 5% of jobs in the United States in the 2000s might require higher math and or science course work according to a study done by Dennis Redovich and published by the Center for the Study of Jobs & Education in Wisconsin and United States. According to Redovich, we already have a large over supply of people trained in these areas. In this case, common sense, or at least the information in common circulation is wrong. We do not need a huge influx of scientists, mathematicians or engineers.
What we do need is a STEM workforce with the highest levels of training and with the skills needed to carry us forward into the 21st Century. That is where Delta High comes into its own. For those better suited to science than to journalism or art, a STEM school makes great sense, especially when coupled with the knowledge that small schools have been shown to produce higher levels of achievement. Of course the opposite argument also holds. Students with a strong interest in journalism would likely benefit from a small school with a strong emphasis on writing. Separate sites are not a necessity, for many of the possible options could be operated as a school-within-a-school concept.
No matter what you believe is a reason behind the STEM concept, let’s get behind the school and help push it into reality.