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Press Release 11-126
New Report Offers Roadmap for Success in K-12 STEM Education

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council reports on effective approaches in teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Photo of children playing with space-filling blocks.

Recommendations include devoting adequate instructional time and resources for K-5th grade science.
Credit and Larger Version

June 23, 2011

From educators to leaders in industry, there is broad agreement that U.S. schools have a crucial challenge in improving teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among students from kindergarten through high school. A background in STEM is not only essential to many current and future careers; it is also a means for citizens to understand and participate in an increasingly complex world--from understanding the challenges of environmental sustainability to addressing the need for alternative sources of energy.

The NRC report, "Successful K-12 STEM Education," is a response to a request from a member of Congress, Rep. Frank Wolf, to identify the characteristics of highly successful K-12 schools and programs in STEM. The report was prepared by a committee of educators led by Adam Gamoran of the Department of Sociology and Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The committee's work included examining existing research and research in progress on STEM-focused schools, as well as a broader base of research related to effective STEM education practices and effective schooling in general. The committee also conducted 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 report offers two sets of recommendations, geared for schools and districts, and for state and national policy-makers. They are summarized as follows.

Districts seeking to improve STEM outcomes should:

  • Consider the adoption of STEM-focused schools. The report identifies three models for such schools: selective STEM Schools for academically talented students, who need to apply for admission; inclusive STEM high schools, often referred to as "magnet schools;" and schools and programs with STEM-focused career and technical education.
  • Devote adequate instructional time and resources to science in grades K-5.
  • Ensure that their STEM curricula are focused on the most important topics in each discipline, are rigorous, and are articulated as a sequence of topics and performances.
  • Enhance the capacity of K-12 teachers.
  • Provide instructional leaders with professional development that helps them create the school conditions that appear to support student achievement.

Educational organizations and policy makers at the state and national levels should:

  • Elevate science to the same level of importance as reading and mathematics.
  • 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.
  • Invest in a coherent, focused, and sustained set of support for STEM teachers.
  • Support key areas for future research.

"NSF appreciates Chairman Wolf's deep interest in improving K-12 STEM education," said Subra Suresh, NSF director. "This report, developed at Rep. Wolf's request, is a resource that will be very useful to all involved in STEM education--from policy makers to teachers to education researchers. The report's findings will be shared with these groups in the months ahead and will guide future research in the field."

"The National Research Council, through leading education researchers, has done a thorough job of identifying evidence-based directions for successful K-12 STEM education," said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources. "This report will guide a number of follow-up and implementation activities to bring the results to practitioners, state and local STEM education leaders, and others.

The report can be accessed from the National Academies Press website.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Maria C. Zacharias, NSF, (703) 292-8454, mzachari@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Cover of  the report Successful K-12 STEM Education.
The report offers recommendations geared for schools and districts and for policy-makers.
Credit and Larger Version



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