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Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (2011)

Chapter:What State and National Policy Makers Can Do to Support Effective K-12 STEM Education

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Suggested Citation:"What State and National Policy Makers Can Do to Support Effective K-12 STEM Education." 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 STATE AND NATIONAL POLICY MAKERS CAN DO TO SUPPORT EFFECTIVE K-12 STEM EDUCATION

We offer proposals to policy makers that collectively have the potential to improve K-12 STEM education. To make progress in improving STEM education for all students, policy makers at the national, state, and local levels should elevate science to the same level of importance as reading and mathematics. Science should be assessed with the same frequency as mathematics and literacy, using a system of assessment that supports learning and understanding. Such a system is not currently available. Therefore, states and national organizations should develop effective systems of assessment that are aligned with the next generation of science standards and that emphasize science practices rather than mere factual recall.

National and state policy makers should invest in a coherent, focused, and sustained set of supports for STEM teachers to help them teach in effective ways. Teachers in STEM should have options to pursue professional learning that addresses their professional needs through a variety of mechanisms, including peer-to-peer collaboration, professional learning communities, and outreach with universities and other organizations.

Furthermore, federal agencies should support research that disentangles the effects of school practice from student selection, recognizes the importance of contextual variables, and allows for longitudinal assessments of student outcomes, including the three strategic goals of STEM education and intermediate outcomes. Federal funding for STEM-focused schools should be tied to a robust, strategic research agenda. Only knowledge of this sort will allow a full response to the questions that were put to this committee.


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Suggested Citation:"What State and National Policy Makers Can Do to Support Effective K-12 STEM Education." 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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