“Entrepreneurs scratch their own itches,” said Nicole Sanchez of the Kapor Center for Social Impact at a conference hosted by NewSchools Venture Fund earlier this spring. Which explains, she continued, why we have so many dating, weather and directions apps.

Closing the knowledge gap

It also goes a long way toward explaining why we have so many sticky systemic social problems left to solve. Far too few Black, Latino, disadvantaged youth and girls of any color or background acquire the skills and knowledge needed to reach even the first round of financing a startup company.

"We must help teachers rise to the challenge of the new standards, increase their impact and find new ways to work together, learn together and tackle the STEM teaching challenge together."

And that means that far too few of our planet's problems are being solved. Of those problems that are getting attention, far too narrow a range of perspectives and life experiences is informing the solutions.

Rising to the challenge

The problems we face in the 21st century are complex, indeed. We need a generation of diverse problem solvers able to tackle the big challenges and to invent the solutions, products and even sectors that will define this century. This will remain just an aspiration unless today’s students are inspired and guided by an equally powerful group of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers.

It is from the classrooms of those STEM teacherstalented, inspiring, diverse and working in every school in Americathat the problem solvers, makers and doers will emerge. But there will not be nearly enough of those classrooms if we don’t champion great teachers, prepare them to succeed in today’s classrooms and create the conditions they need to succeed. We must help teachers rise to the challenge of the new standards, increase their impact and find new ways to work together, learn together and tackle the STEM teaching challenge together.