Theme of the month

Theme of the Month

Join us each month as we focus on a topic of interest to STEM Teacher Leaders with a webinar panel, open discussion, resources and blog post. 

Introduction: A North Star for Guiding STEM Education: from the Classroom to the Capitol

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Jeff Weld

Just over a year ago, the most significant document ever produced for guiding STEM education was published. The reason I can so boldy proclaim its importance is that Charting a Course for the Future: America’s Strategy for STEM Education was created of the people, by the people, and for the people of STEM education. Its power and authenticity to guide our collective practices derives from the vast community who contributed to it. Its potential to shape STEM education for the better across the USA and beyond is limited only by awareness of its existence. If everyone in the STEM education boat were to synchronize our oars and row in the same direction guided by the consensus of this Strategic Plan, the educational transformation we all aspire toward can be realized.

That’s why the opportunity to share America’s Strategy with the STEMTLnet community is so precious. Teacher Leaders of STEM set the course at the classroom, school, district and community level where the real magic happens. You’re going to find this Plan and all of the work blossoming from it to be very helpful.

First, the people who contributed to America’s Strategy will be familiar to you. Over the course of 2018 I hosted hundreds of meetings of leading STEM stakeholders including the American Association of Physics Teachers, The North American Association for Environmental Education, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Computer Science Teachers Association, the American Society for Engineering Education, Advance CTE, Einstein Fellows, student groups including the Broadcom Masters finalists and the Chief Science Officers, and hundreds of other groups consisting of thousands of voices. After shepherding each group through the formidable security of the Eisenhower Building inside the White House gates, they all got asked this question: “What should be the goals and priorities of a new Federal STEM education strategic plan?” What you now see as the three overarching goals and first nine objectives of America’s Strategy are the high-frequency and nearly consensus priorities that emerged. And to make sure, they were market-tested at dozens of high profile STEM conferences including the US News STEM Solutions Summit, the After School Alliance, a STEMconnector Townhall, an NSTA STEM Expo, the Education Commission of the States, and others. Finally and maybe most importantly, all fifty states sent leaders—in education, business, and policy—to Washington D.C. in June of 2018 to help finalize the roster of goals and objectives. By fortunate coincidence, 150 Presidential Awardees in Mathematics, Science, and Technology happened to be in the same building (the NSF hosted us) and took part in the shaping as well. To top it off, a Federal STEM Education Advisory Panel of experts from across the nation offered priceless input that September. Then, a team of about 40 Federal writers representing NSF, NASA, NOAA, NIH, EPA, the Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Labor, Defense, the Smithsonian, and more filled in the critical narrative to bring those goals and priorities to life. 

That is how America’s Strategy for STEM Education became not only the Federal Strategic Plan shaping how taxpayer dollars get spent on STEM education in the years to come, but also a guiding light or a North Star for the entire nation to rally around. Through this document, the people of STEM have spoken in unison.  The three over-arching goals driving STEM education are:

  • Build strong foundations for STEM literacy;
  • Increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM; and
  • Prepare the STEM workforce for the future.

And, the nine educational priorities, or objectives held dear by everyone are:

  1. Foster STEM ecosystems that unite communities.
  2. Increase work-based learning and training through educator-employer partnerships.
  3. Blend successful practices from across the learning landscape.
  4. Advance innovation and entrepreneurship education.
  5. Make mathematics a magnet to STEM.
  6. Encourage transdisciplinary learning.
  7. Promote digital literacy and cyber-safety.
  8. Make computational thinking an integral part of all education.
  9. Expand digital platforms for teaching and learning.

Lots has happened since publication. My Federal friends and colleagues produced a Progress Report on the Federal Implementation of the STEM Education Strategic Plan last October, a process overseen by my capable and delightful successor as the Administration’s Senior Policy Advisor for STEM Education, Cindy Hasselbring, who’ll be part of our webinar. There is much to be considered by STEM Teacher-Leaders within the Implementation Plan, ranging from grant opportunities to professional development programs to student competitions, and more to be covered by our panelists on January 8. Beyond the D.C. beltway, America’s STEM Strategy is guiding practice and policy from classrooms to Capitols. For example,

  • The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics used the STEM Plan as a foundation in an upcoming member publication on catalyzing change in middle school mathematics.
  • The inter-state organization STEMx has conducted a series of informational webinars on each major section of the STEM Plan similar to our Jan. 8 webinar, to guide members.
  • The Industrial Technology and Engineering Education Association has featured the STEM Plan in publications and national conference keynotes.
  • The National Science Teachers Association has included a profile of the STEM Plan in multiple national conferences as session, panel, and keynotes.
  • The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM has featured the STEM Plan in communications and guidance to STEM Ecosystems nationwide and globally.
  • Texas Instruments, the Tiger Woods Foundation and other philanthropic STEM funders aligned their investments to goals and objectives of the STEM Plan.
  • Numerous States, regions and communities are aligning their STEM initiatives to the STEM Plan, including Arkansas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Virginia, North Dakota, Iowa, Southeast Michigan Ecosystem, Central New York Ecosystem, Northeast Florida Ecosystem, Omaha Ecosystem, etc.

I am looking forward to engaging with you on Tuesday evening January 8. Setting the stage, let me wonder out loud here about how our topic might be helpful to you. You can start the conversation by commenting on this blog, or posting to the webinar .

  • Upon what guiding light or best practice or research basis or rallying document do you presently rely to set your STEM course?
  • What strategies have proven to be effective in winning the hearts and minds of administrators, parents, and community members toward your STEM mission.
  • What challenges do you face in building a STEM culture within and across your team?
  • Which aspects of STEM education as prioritized by America’s Strategy for STEM (Partnerships, Convergence, Computational Thinking, Equity and Inclusion) resonate with you? Why?
  • Which aspects of STEM education as prioritized by America’s Strategy for STEM present the greatest challenge and why?

Four wonderful STEM education advocates will join me to consider the implications, the possibilities, and the uses of America’s STEM Strategy for teacher-leaders. They are:

  • K. Renae Pullen, a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Teaching as a former teacher, is now science specialist for Caddo Parish Public Schools in Shreveport, Louisiana, and active contributor to the State and National STEM conversation. Renae will focus on the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion goal of America’s STEM Strategy.
  • Dr. Remy Dou, a former Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, is an Assistant Professor in both the Department of Teaching and Learning & the STEM Transformation Institute at Florida International University where he prepares future STEM teachers and conducts research in STEM self-efficacy and teacher leadership. Remy will focus on the partnerships and ecosystems aspect of America’s STEM Strategy.  
  • Sarah Young, also a former Einstein Fellow and liaison for K-12 STEM interfacing between the Utah State Office of Education and the Utah STEM Action Center, is currently the Digital Teaching and Learning Coordinator for the Utah State Office of Education where she focuses on expanding digital teaching and learning to all students and teachers across the state. Sarah will focus on the computational thinking aspects of America’s STEM Strategy.
  • Cindy Hasselbring is also a distinguished former teacher awarded both an Einstein Fellowship and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Technology Teaching. She went on to lead STEM programs for the Maryland State Department of Education, then to the AOPA where she led the High School Aviation Initiative, and now to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where she is Senior Policy Advisor for STEM Education. Cindy will focus on the convergence of the disciplines, a critical set of objectives of America’s STEM Strategy.   

We look forward to growing with you on January 8, 7:00 PM EST. During the webinar you will have a chance to pose questions to me and our four panelists through the chat feature of the website. We encourage you to submit questions to be directed toward a specific panelist or to everyone. We will monitor the questions and select as many as time will allow. Questions that are not addressed during the Expert Panel will be posted to the Discussion Forum where we can continue the conversation for two weeks after the Panel. All four panelists and I will monitor the discussion and offer responses and other comments. Best wishes navigating your own STEM ship toward our common North Star with perfect 2020 vision!

Jeff Weld