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Report: STEM education needs more money, support

An annual study reveals STEM educators' opinions on a variety of topics.

The latest in an annual series of surveys about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education reveals that funding remains a barrier to better STEM integration in schools—and that districts need more K-8 STEM education and better professional development to help produce students who are career- and college-ready.

The key challenges facing STEM education include insufficient K-12 funding specifically designated for STEM education (48.4 percent), lacking or inadequate K-8 STEM education (46.5 percent), and insufficient professional development for STEM teachers (46.4 percent), the survey suggests.

The 2012 National Survey on STEM Education is the third in a series of annual online surveys and was written and published by Interactive Educational Systems Design, in collaboration with Daylene Long and Scott Long of STEM Market Impact.

Researchers conducted an online survey of 1,079 K-12 school and district STEM leaders and educators in December 2011.

Survey questions focused on topics such as:

  • Top challenges facing STEM education;
  • How STEM education is implemented, and what STEM courses are offered in schools;
  • STEM funding and spending;
  • “Bring your own device” (BYOD) implementation;
  • What technology products educators would like to see developed for STEM education;
  • Current and future tablet device adoption;
  • Nonprofits that are especially useful to STEM education; and
  • STEM teacher professional development activities.


Most respondents said that STEM funding in their districts is inadequate and is likely to remain the same (43.6 percent) or decrease (36.8 percent) in 2012-13.

If given an open-ended STEM education grant, survey respondents most frequently said they’d like to see:

  • Professional development for STEM teachers (71 percent);
  • Hands-on science kits (34.7 percent);
  • Probeware (33 percent);
  • Science room equipment (28.9 percent);
  • Simulation software for difficult-to-teach STEM concepts (25.3 percent); and
  • Programs that expose students to STEM careers (24.3 percent).

Almost one-fifth of respondents (19.1 percent) said that no new STEM initiatives are planned in their schools for 2012-13, and 22.6 percent of district science and STEM supervisors said they do not know what funding sources would support new STEM initiatives.

Grants from private foundations (40.9 percent) and district-led initiatives (33.9 percent) are the most frequently identified funding sources for new STEM initiatives.

STEM course integration

Forty-eight percent of participants said their schools or districts offer one or more programs that integrate core STEM concepts, and another 30 percent said they are at least somewhat likely to integrate core STEM concepts in the next one to three years.

Most said their schools or districts offer career and technical education programs (68.2 percent), introduction to technology courses (64 percent), and computer science/introduction to programming courses (63.6 percent).

Fifty-seven percent said their schools and districts either currently offer or are very likely to offer middle school STEM courses in the next one to three years, with 45.6 percent replying the same for elementary-level STEM courses.

Energy and the environment (26.2 percent), software engineering (20.2 percent), and biomedical technology (19.8 percent) are the most frequently-cited courses that respondents said are very likely to be offered in the next one to three years.

Professional development

Thirty-four percent of respondents said that professional development based on the Next Generation of Science Standards is most helpful to educators, followed by content knowledge (26.3 percent) and professional development on pedagogy (22.8 percent).

More than 40 percent of respondents estimated that internet-based professional development, such as webinars, video training via the web, and web-based workshops sponsored by organizations or universities, would increase in 2012-13.

Slightly more than half of respondents (56.7 percent) said district-led workshop activity would stay the same, and most respondents said that the activity level of on-site and vendor workshops and conferences would remain the same, with about 25 percent projecting a decrease.


A large majority of respondents (87 percent) said their schools or districts had not implemented a “bring your own device” (BYOD) model for computers, tablets, and smart phones.

Of those respondents, 75.9 percent said that their schools or districts are somewhat or very unlikely to implement a BYOD initiative in the next one to three years.

Thirteen percent currently have a BYOD program, 2.7 percent are very likely to adopt a BYOD model in the next one to three years, and 18.3 percent are somewhat likely to adopt BYOD in the same timeframe.

STEM technology products

Respondents identified iPads and other tablets (30.9 percent), probeware and data-collection software (20.8 percent), and apps for mobile devices (18.6 percent) as their most-desired technology-based products for STEM education.

Fewer than one-fourth (21.8 percent) said that tablets are currently widely adopted in their school or district, or that it was likely for tablets to be widely deployed by the 2014-15 school year. Slightly more than one-third (36.7 percent) said it was somewhat likely that tablet devices would be widely adopted, and 41.5 percent said adoption was somewhat or very unlikely.

When it comes to preferred tablet devices, 59.5 percent of survey participants indicated that they would like an iPad, while 12.4 percent chose an Android device and 28.2 percent had no preference.

Equity issues, security and theft prevention, and concern about maintenance and breakage topped educators’ most frequently identified list of barriers to iPad/tablet adoption.

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Laura Ascione

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