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K-12 STEM Initiatives Featured on the Fall Agenda


With the start of the new school year, there was a concerted effort in mid-September to focus national attention on the challenges and opportunities for enhancing K-12 science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the United States.

In addition to the high-profile U.S. Science and Engineering Festival, the White House advanced its “Educate to Innovate” campaign with announcement of a new public-private partnership to “Change the Equation” and released the outline of a proposed national strategy for advancing K-12 STEM education. 

In addition, the Executive Branch received strong new leadership to help advance K-12 STEM education with the confirmation of Nobel Laureate Carl Weiman as Associate Director for Science in the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

White House-CEOs Seek to “Change the Equation”                                  

On 16 September, President Obama helped announce the launch of Change the Equation, a CEO-led educational effort to cultivate widespread literacy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Organized as a new 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Change the Equation is the business community’s response to the President's announcement of an “Educate to Innovate” campaign at the National Academy of Sciences in spring 2009.   Former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, Eastman Kodak CEO Antonio Perez, and Sally Ride Science CEO Sally Ride — joined forces with Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to form Change the Equation.  More than 100 major corporations have pledged support including AT&T, Boeing, Google, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Motorola, Texas Instruments, and more.

As a new start-up, Change the Equation has outlined several first year goals including:

  • Working with member companies to begin spreading a small number of privately funded programs that work to 100 sites across the country where student performance is low and corporate philanthropy is limited.

  • Creating a scorecard that can assess the condition of STEM education in all 50 states. This first scorecard will provide a baseline from which to measure states’ progress in coming years.

  • Identifying and broadly sharing principles for effective business involvement in STEM education.

  • Helping member companies improve the effectiveness of their STEM education programs through robust self-evaluation tools.

  • Advocating for STEM education in the United States, including creation of a state-by-state “scorecard” to highlight area for state-level improvement and to help companies target their engagements to increase impact.

Instead of creating new education outreach programs, Change the Equation aims to leverage the successful programs and resources of its corporate members such as efforts to expand student participation in robotics competitions, improving professional development for math and science teachers, increasing the number of students successfully taking rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) math and science courses, increasing the number of teachers who enter the profession with a STEM undergraduate degree, and providing opportunities for traditionally underrepresented students and underserved communities.   

Among the featured programs are the Boston Museum of Sciences’ “Engineering is Elementary” lesson plans for K-5 classrooms, the FIRST Robotics Competition, IntelMath teacher training, the Salary Ride Science Academy for science teachers, and the Advance Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP)’s National Science and Math Initiative.

Change the Equation’s CEO is Linda P. Rosen, a well-known leader in STEM education reforms who most recently handled STEM programs for the National Alliance of Business and previously served as a Senior Advisor to Education Secretary Richard Riley during the Clinton Administration, and as Executive Director of the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (“The Glenn Commission”).

"Our success as a nation depends on strengthening America's role as the world's engine of discovery and innovation," according to President Obama, who added: "I applaud Change the Equation for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America's leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math."

For more information:

White House announcement:  http://m.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/16/president-obama-announce-major-expansion-educate-innovate-campaign-impro

Presidential Press Conference:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/09/16/remarks-president-announcement-change-equation-initiative

Change the Equation website:  http://www.changetheequation.org/

Presidential  S&T Advisors Recommend National Strategy for K-12 STEM Improvements

In mid-September, the President's Council of Science and Technology Advisors (PCAST) released a report (“Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for America’s Future”) offering their recommendations on a national strategy for improving K-12 science, technology, engineering and math education

PCAST is comprised of 20 of the Nation’s leading scientists and engineers appointed by the President to provide advice on a range of topic.  Earlier this year, they were charged to make specific recommendations to better prepare America’s K-12 students in STEM subjects and also to inspire those students—including girls, minorities, and others underrepresented in STEM fields—to challenge themselves with STEM classes, engage in STEM activities outside the school classroom, and consider pursuing careers in those fields.

In preparing the report and its recommendations, PCAST assembled a Working Group of experts in curriculum development and implementation, school administration, teacher preparation and professional development, effective teaching, out-of-school activities, and educational technology. The report also drew on input and feedback from STEM education experts, STEM practitioners, publishers, private companies, educators, and Federal, state, and local education officials.

While recognizing that improvements in STEM education will require input by educators, the private sector, non-profits, and philanthropies, the report’s recommendations focus primarily on the Federal Government’s role —primarily the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

Among the key recommendations, the report recommends that the Federal government should:

  • Recruit and train 100,000 great STEM teachers over the next decade who are able to prepare and inspire students;

  • Recognize and reward the top 5 percent of the Nation’s STEM teachers, by creating a STEM master teachers corps;

  • Create 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade;

  • Use technology to drive innovation, in part by creating an advanced research projects agency—modeled on the famously innovative Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—for education;

  • Create opportunities for inspiration through individual and group experiences outside the classroom;

Support the current state-led movement for shared standards in math and science.

All told, said Jim Gates, co-chair of the PCAST Working Group on STEM Education, the report provides a practical roadmap for significantly improving Federal coordination and leadership on STEM education so American students today will grow into the world’s science and technology leaders of tomorrow.

“I think of this report as giving my generation a guidebook for how to step up to its `greatest generation moment',” said Gates, who is also Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland.

Fully funding all of the recommendations could require investments of approximately $1 billion per year, much of which, the PCAST report notes, could come from private foundations and corporations, as well as from states and districts.  Many of the recommendations in the report can be carried out with existing Federal funding of current programs, the report concludes, although new authorities may be required in certain cases.

For more information:

PCAST “Prepare and Inspire” Report:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf

New Federal K-12 STEM Leadership

On 16 September, the Senate confirmed the appointment of Dr. Carl E. Wieman as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

"Dr. Wieman will provide strong leadership in support of the increased federal focus on improving K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)," according to IEEE-USA President Evelyn Hirt.

Wieman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2001, along with Eric A. Cornell and Wolfgang Ketterle, for their discovery of a new form of matter, a Bose-Einstein condensate. In recent years, Wieman has been widely recognized for his efforts to improve undergraduate physics education, including curricula development and research into learning processes.  One outgrowth of his work is the Physics Education Technology Project (PhET) at the University of Colorado, which provides JAVA-based applets for highly interactive simulations that help students make connections between real-life phenomena and the underlying science, deepening their understanding and appreciation of the physical world.

As part of his new role at OSTP, Wieman will help define the Administration’s K-12 strategy and coordinate federal K-12 programs across all interested agencies, including the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and NASA.

Wieman previously chaired the National Academies’ Board of Science Education, which was tasked to review NASA’s K-12 education programs.  Their somewhat critical 2008 report drew questions during Wieman’s May confirmation hearings before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which illustrated Wieman’s practical, results-oriented approach. 

In response to a question from Senator Mark Pryor (AR), Wieman noted:  “NASA has a unique role in inspiring people. I wanted to be an astronaut as a child. And there’s something really dramatic about rockets blasting into outer space. But at the same time NASA does not bring much expertise to exactly what’s critical to achieving learning in science and engineering.” 

“It was clear that they needed to be looking a lot harder at accountability and what was really working and whether they were really being guided by the best understanding of STEM education,” added.  “So I think it would be best to have them focus on what they are uniquely good at.”



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Copyright © 2010 IEEE

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