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Here’s how to leverage federal funds for STEM education

The U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to school districts and educational leaders on funding STEM education opportunities

The U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance around leveraging federal funds for STEM education in an attempt to close the equity and opportunity gaps that persist for historically underserved students.

A letter directed to states, school districts and schools offers examples of how federal funds can serve to support the development, implementation and expansion of STEM education and learning experiences to improve student achievement.

The recommendations focus on improving student access to STEM learning experiences, as well as supporting educators in STEM disciplines. The letter also targets computer science education and mentions in a footnote that all references to STEM include computer science.

“Too often many of our students, especially those who are most vulnerable, do not have equitable access to high-quality STEM and computer science opportunities, which are part of a well-rounded education and can change the course of a child’s life,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that all students have the same opportunities to access a rigorous and challenging education. This letter will help states and their school districts use their federal funds to close opportunity gaps and improve educational outcomes for all students.”

The letter offers examples of how Title I, Title II, Title III and Title IV of ESEA; IDEA; and the Perkins Act can support PreK-12 STEM education.

Next page: Various funding categories that can support STEM education

The examples are organized into categories:

1. Increase students’ equitable access to STEM courses and experiences, including out-of-school programs, STEM-themed schools, and career pathways

Program funds could support dual or concurrent enrollment programs, early college high school models, or other methods to increase access to rigorous STEM courses and learning experiences that will enhance career and college readiness.

2. Support educators’ knowledge and expertise in STEM disciplines through recruitment, preparation, support, and retention strategies

Title II funds might be used to offer stipends to attract STEM educators to the profession. The same funds might also support professional learning opportunities, support new STEM-related course implementation by educators, or help educators effectively teach students with disabilities in STEM subjects.

3. Increase student access to materials and equipment needed to support inquiry-based pedagogy and active learning

These funds might be used to provide students with mobile devices to support STEM learning, purchase assistive technology devices for students with disabilities, or to update STEM-related labs and lab materials or other specialized learning spaces to support inquiry-based STEM or maker activities.

The letter also identifies STEM-specific components of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2015. Those components include:

  • Increasing access for students through grade 12 who are members of groups underrepresented in STEM fields
  • Supporting the participation of low-income students in nonprofit competitions related to STEM subjects
  • Providing hands-on learning and exposure to STEM subjects and supporting the use of field-based or service learning to enhance students’ understanding of the STEM subjects
  • Supporting the creation and enhancement of STEM-focused specialty schools
  • Facilitating the collaboration among school, after-school program, and informal program personnel to improve the integration of programming and instruction in STEM subjects
  • Integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM subject programs to increase participation in STEM subjects, improve attainment of skills related to STEM, and promote well-rounded education

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