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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2011. Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13158.
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INTRODUCTION

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This report responds to a request from Representative Frank Wolf (VA) for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to identify highly successful K-12 schools and programs in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM). In response to a request and with support from NSF, in October 2010 the National Research Council (NRC) convened an expert committee to explore this issue.

The Committee on Highly Successful Schools or Programs for K-12 STEM Education was charged with “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.” This effort also included a public workshop on May 10-11, 20111 that was planned to address the following charge:

An ad hoc steering committee will plan and conduct a public workshop to explore criteria for identifying highly successful K-12 schools and programs in the area of STEM education through examination of a select set of examples. The committee will determine some initial criteria for nominating successful schools to be considered at the workshop. The examples included in the workshop must have been studied in enough detail to provide evidence to support claims of success. Discussions at the workshop will focus on refining criteria for success, exploring models of “best practice,” and analyzing factors that evidence indicates lead to success. The discussion from the workshop will be synthesized in an individually authored workshop summary.

To carry out its charge, the committee solicited background papers to be prepared for the workshop (see the Appendix for a list of the papers). The committee also examined the limited body of existing and forthcoming research on STEM-focused schools, the broader base of research related to effective STEM education practices, and research on effective schooling generally.2 The goal of this report is to provide information that leaders at the school district, state, and national level can use to make strategic decisions about improving STEM education.

In examining the research, the committee considered findings to be suggestive if they identified conditions that were associated with success, but could not be disentangled from the types of students found in such conditions. We considered findings to give evidence of success if they resulted from research studies that were designed to support causal conclusions by distinguishing the effectiveness of schools from the characteristics of the students attending them.

Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2011. Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13158.
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What Aspects of STEM Are Addressed in This Report?

Although there are a variety of perspectives on what STEM education in K-12 schools entails, for the purposes of this report the committee focused its analysis on the science and mathematics parts of STEM. This decision was influenced by the fact that the bulk of the research and data concerning STEM education at the K-12 level relates to mathematics and science education. Research in technology and engineering education is less mature because those subjects are not as commonly taught in K-12 education.3 Although integrating STEM subjects is not the focus of this report, the committee recognizes the variety of conceptual connections among STEM subjects and the fact that science inquiry and engineering design provide opportunities for making STEM learning more concrete and relevant.

The nature and potential value of integrated K-12 STEM education are the focus of an ongoing study of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council by the Committee on Integrated STEM Education. It is expected to be completed in 2013.

Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2011. Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13158.
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Page1
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 2011. Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13158.
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Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are cultural achievements that reflect our humanity, power our economy, and constitute fundamental aspects of our lives as citizens, consumers, parents, and members of the workforce. Providing all students with access to quality education in the STEM disciplines is important to our nation's competitiveness. However, it is challenging to identify the most successful schools and approaches in the STEM disciplines because success is defined in many ways and can occur in many different types of schools and settings. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether the success of a school's students is caused by actions the school takes or simply related to the population of students in the school.

Successful K-12 STEM Education defines a framework for understanding "success" in K-12 STEM education. The book focuses its analysis on the science and mathematics parts of STEM and outlines criteria for identifying effective STEM schools and programs. Because a school's success should be defined by and measured relative to its goals, the book identifies three important goals that share certain elements, including learning STEM content and practices, developing positive dispositions toward STEM, and preparing students to be lifelong learners. A successful STEM program would increase the number of students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields, enhance the STEM-capable workforce, and boost STEM literacy for all students. It is also critical to broaden the participation of women and minorities in STEM fields.

Successful K-12 STEM Education examines the vast landscape of K-12 STEM education by considering different school models, highlighting research on effective STEM education practices, and identifying some conditions that promote and limit school- and student-level success in STEM. The book also looks at where further work is needed to develop appropriate data sources. The book will serve as a guide to policy makers; decision makers at the school and district levels; local, state, and federal government agencies; curriculum developers; educators; and parent and education advocacy groups.

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