New National Academies Report Details Ways to Improve STEM Education

Last week, the National Academies’ National Research Council released a report detailing ways for improving K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Titled “Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” the report aimed to “provide information that leaders at the school district, state, and national level can use to make strategic decisions about improving STEM education” by “outlining criteria for identifying effective STEM schools and programs and identifying which of those criteria could be addressed with available data and research, and those where further work is needed to develop appropriate data sources.”

Noting several areas for improvement in national K-12 STEM education, the report committee analyzed the effectiveness of STEM programs at various schools around the country.  Based on their findings, the committee formulated the following policy recommendations:

  • Establish a coherent set of STEM standards and curriculum.
  • Hire teachers with a high capacity to teach in their discipline.
  • Provide a system of assessment and accountability to promote learning of content and understanding of STEM practices.
  • Provide adequate instructional time for STEM subjects.
  • Provide equal access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities to eliminate the disparities between advantaged students and minority and low-income students.
  • Promote school conditions and cultures that support learning.
  • Increase frequency of state-wide and national STEM assessment exams.

The report was ordered by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Science Foundation.  The NSF worked with the National Academies to develop the report, which grew out of recommendations made by the highly influential “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report. While that seminal report ultimately led to passage of the America COMPETES act in 2007, it is unclear what action Congress will take based on the new report’s recommendations.

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