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Iowa's Rural Parents Say Their Children Are Not Well-Prepared in STEM

Teachers with math and science endorsements are unevenly distributed between urban and rural areas in Iowa, according to a new study.

That disparity may be one reason for big variations between rural and urban parents' perceptions on how well their children are being prepared in STEM subjects. Rural parents think their children are less prepared in STEM subjects than city parents, according to the report.

Those are some of the significant findings in a new 248-page report on the Iowa STEM Monitoring Project prepared for the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council. The advisory council was created in 2011 with the goal of encouraging more students to consider and pursue STEM careers.

The new report includes results from a statewide survey of more than 2,000 Iowans intended to measure public awareness of STEM.

The report doesn't give specific numbers on the distribution of STEM teachers in rural compared with urban areas, but it does provide maps that show basic frequency distributions. Those reveal an uneven distribution, and sometimes a total absence of STEM teachers, in rural areas.

That may be why rural parents think their children are less prepared in STEM subjects than parents who live in the city, according to the report. The percentage of parents who believed their children were very well-prepared in STEM subjects varied from 37 percent in rural areas to 62 percent in a city. Still, among parents of school-aged children, most agreed it is important for them to do well in elementary math and science and have some advanced skills in high school STEM subjects.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said in the Des Moines Register story on the report that higher salaries for starting teachers should help recruit more educators with STEM backgrounds.

"It does show we have a problem," he told the paper. "This is an indication we don't have enough teachers with the right background."

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