The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 called for a Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education 5-Year Strategic Plan. The Act similarly requires that a report provide an update on the implementation of the Strategic Plan, the efficiency and coherence of federal STEM programs, and dissemination of STEM education research and resources. This Progress Report was recently published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and includes an overview of the STEM education FY 2015 budget request and the strategic plan, a discussion about reducing fragmentation and duplication of STEM programs, and plans to improve dissemination of federal STEM education resources.
Regarding STEM education in the President’s FY 2015 budget request, the progress report notes the $40.0 million to prepare 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in the next decade, $20.0 million for the launch of a STEM Master Teacher Corps, the $110.0 million for the establishment of STEM Innovation Networks, the $118.5 million investment in undergraduate STEM education and the $50 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education. The progress report also highlights the Administration’s support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Discovery Research K-12 program and the STEM public-private partnership between the Department of Defense and the National Math and Science Initiative which has yielded a significant increase in the number of students who pass Advance Placement courses in high schools.
At the undergraduate level, the report notes the FY 2015 budget request investments in undergraduate education at the NSF and the $75.2 million allocated for Research Experiences for Undergraduates. The FY 2015 budget request also includes investments in the NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program aimed at community colleges.
The Committee on STEM Education which produced the 5-year Strategic Plan directed a Taskforce on Federal Coordination in STEM Education to plan the implementation of that plan. Five priority areas were identified including “P-12 STEM instruction, increase and sustain youth and public engagement in STEM, enhance the STEM experience of undergraduate students, better serve groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields, and redesign graduate education to prepare students to enter the workforce.” Future implementation will require gaining additional STEM education community input and focusing on established short- and medium- term goals.
Regarding the Administration and congressional interest in reducing fragmentation and duplication of federal STEM education programs, the progress report addresses internal consolidations and cross-agency partnerships. “The primary mechanism for reducing fragmentation has been internal agency-level consolidations,” the report states as it notes the major reorganization of NASA’s educational investments and the consolidation of education programs at the NSF. To support agency STEM education programs, the Department of ED and the NSF have developed common guidelines for education research.
To improve dissemination of federal STEM education resources, the report suggests creating a “one-stop resource” which would “build upon the infrastructure already developed by NSF and ED.” Current efforts to make content from federal education research available to the general public are housed within the What Works Clearinghouse at the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences. The Institute also maintains an Education Resources Information Center. At the NSF, many education research programs are found within the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, including the Math and Science Partnership Network, the Center for Advanced Research and Communication in STEM and the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education.
STEM education is and will continue to be a policy focus for the Administration and is a topic of frequent discussion on Capitol Hill. Implementation of any consolidation of STEM education programs will likely require actions from Congress as well as the Administration. There is interest on both sides of the aisle to work on STEM education policy and this progress report will could provide a basis for further discussions on Capitol Hill surrounding federal STEM education programs.