Last week the U.S. Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter to states, school districts, schools, and education partners on how to maximize federal funds to support and enhance innovative science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for all students.
The letter serves as a resource for decreasing the equity and opportunity gaps for historically underserved students in STEM, and gives examples of how federal funds—through formula grant programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act —can support efforts to improve instruction and student outcomes in STEM fields.
“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. “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.”
Outlined in the letter are examples of allowable uses of federal funds that can support the development, implementation, and expansion of STEM experiences to help improve student achievement in the 2016–17 school year. The examples include recommendations for both improving access for students and supporting educators in STEM disciplines, including computer science. Specifically, the letter addresses ways to use federal funds to:
- Increase students’ equitable access to STEM courses and experiences, including out-of-school programs, STEM-themed schools, and career pathways.
- Support educators’ knowledge and expertise in STEM disciplines through recruitment, preparation, support, and retention strategies.
- Increase student access to materials and equipment needed to support inquiry-based pedagogy and active learning.
Ensuring that all students have equitable access to STEM education continues to be a priority of the Obama Administration. To help promote that priority, the Education Department created a STEM team to help coordinate STEM programs throughout the Department and across other federal agencies. Also, STEM is now a funding priority in numerous Department grant competitions—including the Arts—to raise awareness of the need for and interest in strengthening STEM education for all students, both in and out of school.
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Source: U.S. Department of Education