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How to make STEM education a success

New report identifies key factors in boosting student interest in STEM courses, fields

Adequate instructional time is a key part of a strong STEM education program.

What makes science programs at specialized science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) schools better than ordinary programs? A new report identifies key factors that contribute to effective STEM education, and it recommends that science instruction receive the same level of priority as math and reading.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), “Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” from the National Research Council, responds to a request from Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., to identify highly successful K-12 schools that specialize in one or more STEM disciplines.

“Rep. Wolf asked a really important question, but one that’s difficult to answer,” said Adam Gamoran, chair of the committee that authored the report. “We can see which schools have success, but it’s not easy to see whether that success is because of the schools or the students.  So we asked what criteria can help us identify successful schools in STEM education, not just through test scores, but also through whether students are taking advanced courses [and are] interested, motivated, [and] moving into technical fields.”

For more news about STEM education, see:

Solving the STEM Education Crisis

The report identifies six factors required for successful STEM education:

•    A coherent set of standards and curriculum
•    Highly qualified teachers
•    A supportive system of assessment and accountability
•    Adequate instructional time
•    Equal access
•    A school culture that encourages learning

“Our conclusion is that no one of these areas will be enough to transform STEM education. … You really have to do all of these steps,” Gamoran said.  “I realize that makes it complicated, but it’s a complicated problem that demands a complicated solution.”

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Comments:

  1. kochsner

    July 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    The most difficult part of STEM is the integration of the engineering aspect. Learning how to engineer mechanical, chemical and electrical aspects of science is not an easy task. Also the best engineers can visualize past rote design and have an artistic creativity to their work. By adding Art into the STEM program, it allows students to integrate the creative spark to promote innovation. Without STEAM, we are asking students to be like other schools around the world, as opposed to excel past those schools in innovation and leadership.

    What I have noticed with specialized science charter schools is that it is difficult to replicate because they artificially skim excelling students from the other schools. One particular science based charter school requires students to take a final exam that is worth 80% of their grade. Students who do not test well leave for the regular classroom. While it is great to see different types of teaching and to see honor students excel in those types of environments, we can’t compare these classroom scores with public school scores.
    As teachers we always knew that if we collaborate and integrate, the students win, but schools became closed walls. STEAM is all about integration and cross curriculum design.

  2. kochsner

    July 14, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    The most difficult part of STEM is the integration of the engineering aspect. Learning how to engineer mechanical, chemical and electrical aspects of science is not an easy task. Also the best engineers can visualize past rote design and have an artistic creativity to their work. By adding Art into the STEM program, it allows students to integrate the creative spark to promote innovation. Without STEAM, we are asking students to be like other schools around the world, as opposed to excel past those schools in innovation and leadership.

    What I have noticed with specialized science charter schools is that it is difficult to replicate because they artificially skim excelling students from the other schools. One particular science based charter school requires students to take a final exam that is worth 80% of their grade. Students who do not test well leave for the regular classroom. While it is great to see different types of teaching and to see honor students excel in those types of environments, we can’t compare these classroom scores with public school scores.
    As teachers we always knew that if we collaborate and integrate, the students win, but schools became closed walls. STEAM is all about integration and cross curriculum design.

  3. cer27

    July 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    in each subject to be studied sress deep and complete understanding over breadth of subject matters

  4. cer27

    July 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    in each subject to be studied sress deep and complete understanding over breadth of subject matters

  5. czh17@mcsdk12.org

    July 18, 2011 at 6:50 am

    My husband who retired last year had a degree in Industrial Arts from Penn State University. The curriculum later was revised at the middle school level where it required for 7th and 8th grade students in PA and renamed Technology Education. He was an advisor for The Student Technology Assoc. which includes middle and high school students nationally and internattionally. Four former 7th grade students won third place nationally this summer in a team event in the category of medical challenge. Another middle school in our district won first place at nationals collaborating with two other middle schools from outside their district. One was specified as the design team, the manufacturing team, and thirdly the packaging team. Their product was so great that I will not mention because I think it should be patented. That teacher/adviser will not be part of the science ed. dept. Two other Tech Ed teachers who retired this year are NOT being replaced, as well as the teacher who took over the position that was formerly my husband’s. Those teachers were trained in engineering.

  6. czh17@mcsdk12.org

    July 18, 2011 at 6:50 am

    My husband who retired last year had a degree in Industrial Arts from Penn State University. The curriculum later was revised at the middle school level where it required for 7th and 8th grade students in PA and renamed Technology Education. He was an advisor for The Student Technology Assoc. which includes middle and high school students nationally and internattionally. Four former 7th grade students won third place nationally this summer in a team event in the category of medical challenge. Another middle school in our district won first place at nationals collaborating with two other middle schools from outside their district. One was specified as the design team, the manufacturing team, and thirdly the packaging team. Their product was so great that I will not mention because I think it should be patented. That teacher/adviser will not be part of the science ed. dept. Two other Tech Ed teachers who retired this year are NOT being replaced, as well as the teacher who took over the position that was formerly my husband’s. Those teachers were trained in engineering.

  7. lcallister1

    July 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    kochsner, you are right about Engineering being a challenge – a comment we at Learning.com hear daily from teachers and school leaders we support with STEM implementation support and digital curriculum. Approaching engineering with NASA resources that enable teachers to create project-based learning experiences provide teachers with excellent resources to be successful in STEM. Most important, the schools we work with tell us they need support to implement STEM programs. We’ve put together a whitepaper on Integrating STEM through project-based learning, available here: http://bit.ly/esnstemwp

  8. lcallister1

    July 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    kochsner, you are right about Engineering being a challenge – a comment we at Learning.com hear daily from teachers and school leaders we support with STEM implementation support and digital curriculum. Approaching engineering with NASA resources that enable teachers to create project-based learning experiences provide teachers with excellent resources to be successful in STEM. Most important, the schools we work with tell us they need support to implement STEM programs. We’ve put together a whitepaper on Integrating STEM through project-based learning, available here: http://bit.ly/esnstemwp


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