NSTA Legislative Update: America’s Strategy for STEM Education

On December 4, 2018 the Trump Administration released a five year strategic plan for STEM education that calls for expanding the nation’s capacity for STEM education and preparing workers for jobs in the these fields, and charts out a strategy which federal agencies with STEM education initiatives can use when developing their programs.

The Administration also suggests the report is an urgent call to action on STEM education and should be considered a “North Star” that all STEM stakeholders can follow.

The report, titled Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education, is based on a vision where “all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation and employment.”

It was shepherded through an inter-agency process lead by Jeff Weld—a former science teacher and head of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council in Iowa—who worked extensively with the STEM education community over the course of several months to develop the plan. (NSTA Executive Director David Evans is vice chair of the STEM Education Advisory Panel that is advising NSF/Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM) on this report and other STEM education related issues.)

Here are some highlights from Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education.

The vision for a ensuring the United States becomes the global leader in STEM will be achieved by pursuing three goals:

  • Goal 1: Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy
  • Goal 2: Increase Diversity and Inclusion through Broader Access to STEM
  • Goal 3: Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future

The federal strategy for STEM education is built on four pathways:

Develop and Enrich Strategic Partnerships

Strengthen existing relationships and develop new connections between educational institutions, employers and communities by bringing together schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums and other community resources to foster STEM Ecosystems.  Increase work-based learning and training through partnerships of educators and employers, and explore opportunities to blend formal and informal learning with curricula so students can complete both core academic and applied technical curricula in preparation for higher education.

Engage Students where Disciplines Converge

Make STEM learning more meaningful and inspiring to study by engaging learners in transdisciplinary activities such as project-based learning, science fairs, robotics clubs, invention challenges and gaming workshops. Make mathematics a magnet, not a barrier, to the further study of STEM subjects.  Teach learners to tackle problems using multiple disciplines.

Build Computational Literacy

Advance computational thinking as a critical skill for today’s world and make it and integral part of all education.  (Computational thinking is defined as including computer science, but not just using computing devices effectively; it means solving complex problems with data). Expand the use of digital platforms for teaching and learning that enable anytime/anywhere learning; make individualized instruction possible; and offer engaging learning through simulation-based activities and virtual reality experiences.

Operate with Transparency and Accountability

The federal government must use open, evidence-based practices and decision making in STEM programs, investments, and activities. Specifically, it calls for federal agencies to:

  • Leverage and Scale Evidence-Based Practices Across STEM Communities
  • Report Participation Rates of Underrepresented Groups
  • Use Common Metrics to Measure Progress
  • Make Program Performance and Outcomes Publicly Available
  • Develop a Federal Implementation Plan and Track Progress

Federal agencies with STEM programs will be developing their plans to implement the goals outlined in this plan in the next few weeks.

Vignettes of best practices and profiles of effective federal STEM programs are sprinkled throughout the report. The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) was cited as a best example for Documenting the Participation of Underrepresented Students in STEM programs (sidebar, page 30). NSTA administers several programs for AEOP, including eCYBERMISSIONGains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS), the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), and oversees the Camp Invention sites that are sponsored by AEOP.

Under the section Blend Successful Practices from Across the Learning Landscape, NSTA’s Connected Science Learning is cited as an online community resource that “shares effective practices and research for bridging the gap between in-school and out-of-school settings” (page 13 of the report).

The report can be found here.

Read articles about the report:

EOS: White House Releases STEM Education Strategy

Education Week: Trump Team Outlines Its STEM Education Vision

Education DIVE: White House releases five-year STEM education strategy

Science magazine: Trump emphasizes workforce training in new vision for STEM education

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.


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5 Responses to NSTA Legislative Update: America’s Strategy for STEM Education

  1. Austinmiller says:

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  5. Cherylrobin says:

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