On September 16, President Obama announced the launch of Change the Equation, an effort led by chief executives to dramatically improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education as part of his administration’s Educate to Innovate campaign. The 100 companies participating in Change the Equation will connect and align their work to transform STEM learning in the United States.
Change the Equation has three major goals: improve STEM teaching at all grade levels, and work to ensure a larger, more diverse cadre of STEM teachers; inspire student appreciation and excitement for STEM programs and careers to increase success and achievement in school and opportunities for a collegiate education, especially among females and students of color; and achieve a sustained commitment to improving STEM education from business leaders, government officials, STEM educators, and other stakeholders.
For more information, go to www.changetheequation.org.
PCAST Report on K–12 STEM Education Sent to President
Also on September 16, President Obama and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology’s (PCAST) final report on actions the federal government can take to strengthen STEM education.
Prepare and Inspire: K–12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future makes two conclusions and then specific recommendations (excerpted here) to better prepare America’s K–12 students in STEM subjects. The report is expected to have an impact on future policy and funding decisions. For more information, go to www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast.
To improve stem education, we must focus on both preparation and inspiration.
To meet our needs for a STEM-capable citizenry, a STEM-proficient workforce, and future STEM experts, the nation must focus on two complementary goals: We must prepare all students, including girls and minorities who are underrepresented in these fields, to be proficient in STEM subjects. And we must inspire all students to learn STEM and in the process, motivate many of them to pursue STEM careers.
The federal government has historically lacked a coherent strategy and sufficient leadership capacity for K–12 STEM education.
Over the past few decades, a diversity of federal projects and approaches to K–12 STEM education across multiple agencies appears to have emerged largely without a coherent vision and without careful oversight of goals and outcomes. In addition, relatively little federal funding has historically been targeted toward catalytic efforts with the potential to transform STEM education, too little attention has been paid to replication and scale-up to disseminate proven programs widely, and too little capacity at key agencies has been devoted to strategy and coordination.
Standards. Support the current state-led movement for shared standards in math and science.
The federal government should vigorously support the state-led effort to develop common standards in STEM subjects by providing financial and technical support to states for (i) rigorous, high-quality professional development aligned with shared standards, and (ii) the development, evaluation, administration, and ongoing improvement of assessments aligned to those standards.
The standards and assessments should reflect the mix of factual knowledge, conceptual understanding, procedural skills, and habits of thought described in recent studies by the National Research Council.
Teachers. Recruit and train 100,000 great STEM teachers over the next decade who are able to prepare and inspire students.
The federal government should set a goal of ensuring over the next decade the recruitment, preparation, and induction support of at least 100,000 new STEM middle and high school teachers who have strong majors in STEM fields and strong content-specific pedagogical preparation, by providing vigorous support for programs designed to produce such teachers.
Teachers. Recognize and reward the top 5% of the nation’s STEM teachers by creating a STEM Master Teachers Corps.
The federal government should support the creation of a national STEM Master Teachers Corps that recognizes, rewards, and engages the best STEM teachers and elevates the status of the profession. It should recognize the top 5% of all STEM teachers in the nation, and Corps members should receive significant salary supplements, as well as funds to support activities in their schools and districts.
Educational Technology. Use technology to drive innovation by creating an advanced research projects agency for education.
Information and computation technology can be a powerful driving force for innovation in education by improving the quality of instructional materials available to teachers and students, aiding in the development of high-quality assessments that capture student learning, and accelerating the collection and use of data to provide rich feedback to students, teachers, and schools. Moreover, technology has been advancing rapidly to the point that it can soon play a transformative role in education.
The federal government should create a mission-driven, advanced research projects agency for education (ARPA-ED), housed either in the Department of Education or the National Science Foundation, or as a joint entity. ARPA-ED should propel and support (i) the development of innovative technologies and technology platforms for learning, teaching, and assessment across all subjects and ages, and (ii) the development of effective, integrated, whole-course materials for STEM education.
Students. Create opportunities for inspiration through individual and group experiences outside the classroom.
The federal government should develop a coordinated initiative, called INSPIRE, to support the development of a wide range of high-quality, STEM-based, after-school and extended-day activities (such as STEM contests, fabrication laboratories, summer and after-school programs, and similar activities). The program should span disparate efforts of science mission agencies and after-school programs supported through Department of Education funding.
Schools. Create 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade.
The federal government should promote the creation of at least 200 new highly-STEM-focused high schools and 800 STEM-focused elementary and middle schools over the next decade, including many serving minority and high-poverty communities. In addition, the federal government should take steps to ensure that all schools and school systems have access to relevant STEM expertise.
Ensure Strong and Strategic National Leadership. Stronger leadership, coherent strategy, and greater coordination are essential to support innovation in K–12 STEM education. Toward this end, the federal government should (i) create new mechanisms to provide leadership within the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation; (ii) establish a high-level partnership between these agencies; (iii) establish a standing Committee on STEM Education within the National Science and Technology Council, responsible for creating a federal STEM education strategy; and (iv) establish an independent Presidential Commission on STEM Education, in conjunction with the National Governors Association.