Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Education
State Board of Education
Regulations Governing the Review and Approval of Education Programs in Virginia [8 VAC 20 ‑ 542]
Action Comprehensive Revision of the Regulations Governing the Review and Approval of Education Programs in
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 10/31/2015
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10/21/15  12:14 pm
Commenter: Jesse W. White, Citizen

Against Engineering Endorsement separate form CTE

The National Academy of Engineering publications have consistently recommended that efforts toward K-12 Engineering Education standards should be in collaboration with Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Virginia’s Technology Education teachers, leaders, and professors have worked, since the 1980’s, to create an Engineering curriculum that starts as early as Kindergarten, proceeds through middle school and high school in several forms, and has produced graduates who have gone through university to professional engineering careers.

Publications and others who have promoted stopping what we are currently doing and starting a K-12 engineering curriculum, have done so in context of common core standards and outdated federal policy. The Commonwealth of Virginia not only has a working solution, but many of those teachers have reached out to their science and mathematics colleagues in collaboration and interdisciplinary efforts curriculum teams.  

However, in the oft cited 2010 publication, Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? (See: National Academy of Engineering) and particularly in the section, “Overall Conclusion,” is:

“The committee concluded that, although it is theoretically possible to develop standards for K–12 engineering education, it would be extremely difficult to ensure their usefulness and effective implementation. This conclusion is supported by the following findings: (1) there is relatively limited experience with K–12 engineering education in U.S. elementary and secondary schools, (2) there is not at present a critical mass of teachers qualified to deliver engineering instruction, (3) evidence regarding the impact of standards-based educational reforms on student learning in other subjects, such as mathematics and science, is inconclusive, and (4) there are significant barriers to introducing stand-alone standards for an entirely new content area in a curriculum already burdened with learning goals in more established domains of study” (page 1  Executive Summary).

However, Virginia does have extensive experience with K-12 engineering with different approaches and since the 1980’s. It is in this that a lack of true collaboration has occurred as Mathematics and Science SOL’s have created a separation and Engineering has been adopted as a component of Technology Education. The Virginia Department of Education has not adopted the name of its Technology Education Services as has occurred in the Virginia Technology and Engineering Education or the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association department name. This should be corrected as the only research-based engineering education is found in Technology Education. The book does cite the ITEEA Standards of Technological Literacy when making its case for and Engineering curriculum. Further, in “RECOMMENDATION 1” of the publication, Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? , “Federal agencies, foundations, and professional engineering societies with an interest in improving precollege engineering education should fund a consensus process to develop a document describing the core ideas of engineering that are appropriate for K–12 students. The process should include the views of a wide range of stakeholders. Work should begin as soon as possible, and the findings should be shared with key audiences, including developers of new or revised standards in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology at the national and state levels."

In “Guidelines for the Development of Instructional Materials,” “One important benefit of core ideas would be to support the development of guidelines for K–12 engineering instructional materials. Guidelines would help curriculum developers focus these materials on the core ideas and ensure that students would be exposed to materials representative of the actual practice of engineering. Thus guidelines could have an immediate, positive effect on the development of K–12 engineering curricula” (page 2 Executive Summary).

The Virginia Board of Education should direct the Superintendent of Instruction to use available resources such as Technology Education Services and began work to account for the current K-12 Engineering programs, teacher ability, and available national standards of practice. Only then should a separation from current practice occur.

Further, in “Special Characteristics of K–12 Engineering Education,”  “K–12 engineering education has three important characteristics that must inform standards development and implementation. First, as noted in Chapter 1, compared to other K–12 subjects, engineering has a very small footprint in schools; in addition, almost no undergraduate programs provide training for prospective teachers of engineering. To put it simply, K–12 engineering education is in its infancy, and this has implications for standards. Second, engineering has strong connections to mathematics, science, and technology, school subjects for which there already are K–12 content standards. In addition, existing standards, particularly for science and technology, exploit their natural connections to engineering. Thus it is reasonable to ask if new engineering standards must include explicit links to these and perhaps other content standards. Finally, because of the postsecondary, professional track in engineering, some K–12 engineering curricula focus on preparing students to enter engineering schools, sometimes called the “pipeline” approach (e.g., Project Lead the Way, However, content standards for K–12 school subjects are typically based on a “mainline” goal, that is, general literacy in that field of study. This raises the question of whether there should be two sets of standards for K–12 engineering and, if so, how they might differ” (page 17).

I propose that this board reflect on the historical basis that 1, Engineering is a career field and that the study of careers is in the domain of Career and Technical Education. In this is the question of which other K-12 curriculum areas outside of Career and Technical education have endorsements and separate curricula in their career fields? 2) That as Virginia improves its effort to provide a K-12 Engineering Curriculum, that it be a collaborative effort amongst the Science, Technology, and Mathematics disciplines, and 3) that until real research and practice emerges as something different than what Virginia provides at developmentally appropriate levels, the domain “engineering” whether with a lower case or capital E remain in Technology Education. This would allow a transition, should one be necessary, rather than to further spread the education funding, efforts, and clarity. While there may be a prima facie logic to creating a new endorsement, history proves that education reform without due process or research leads to faulty logic and less student ability. In addition, claims that engineering is not present in Virginia K-12 are missing current data about what does occur. In addition, while the need for engineers is evident at some companies, it is the post-secondary institutions who need the K-12 pipeline. Industry requires the 4-year graduate. Univerisities need the high school graduates. Please do not allow this endorsement to continue as it is currently written. Instead, follow through with recommendations to create a true collaborative as the Governor's STEM Academies suggest.

Jesse W. White