How to make STEM education a success

By Raishay Lin, Contributing Editor
July 14th, 2011

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.”